• Symmonds targets USOC, USATF with lawsuit

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    Two-time U.S. Olympian Nick Symmonds
    The legal team behind O’Bannon v. NCAA is now targeting the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Track & Field.

    Hausfeld LLP Partner Sathya Gosselin filed suit today in U.S. District Court in Oregon, accusing both bodies of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act by restricting sponsor advertising at the U.S. Olympic Trials in July.

    The only plaintiff is Run Gum, a caffeinated gum company co-founded by two-time Olympic 800-meter runner Nick Symmonds. An outspoken athletes rights advocate, Symmonds quit the 2015 IAAF World Championships team amid a marketing dispute with the USATF and called the suit part of a larger mission.

    “This is round three of 12 that I will fight over the course of my career or my lifespan,” Symmonds said.

    The lawsuit targets USATF and USOC rules prohibiting athletes from wearing corporate logos at the Olympic Trials, except for the standard marks of approved equipment or clothing manufacturers. Run Gum is seeking an injunction to invalidate the rules, allowing it to advertise on competition clothing worn by endorsed athletes, Gosselin said.

    “We think that this will benefit both the sport and athletes, in that the current practice pushes down the prices paid to individual athletes for individual sponsorships, and necessarily reduces the number of sponsors,” Gosselin said. If the suit prevails, Gosselin said, hundreds of companies could offer athlete sponsorships that activate at the Trials, rather than the few dozen equipment or apparel makers today.

    USATF spokeswoman Jill Geer said: "We are unaware of the lawsuit and have not been served. In any circumstance, we do not comment on pending litigation."

    The USOC also had not seen the suit and declined comment.

    In general, the Olympic movement desires competition venues with limited commercial presence, and the USOC and its member governing bodies follow that theme at the Trials. The Olympic Trials are owned by the USOC but run by individual governing bodies through a management agreement. An international guideline known as Rule 50 restricts athlete advertising during competitions, but it doesn’t apply to Olympic Trials. “Rule 50 by its own terms does not reach anything other than the Olympic Games,” Gosselin said.

    The Federal Amateur Sports Act of 1978 grants the USOC a monopoly over the administration of Olympic sports and intellectual property. But, Gosselin argues, the Trials’ rules fall “well outside” the law’s purview.

    Symmonds says he’s “very pleased” with sponsorship rules at most USATF events, but the Trials are a uniquely valuable marketing property in the sport. The Olympic Trials are slated for July 1-10 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., and will enjoy extensive coverage on NBC and NBCSN. “At least for the purposes of the United States, it’s the Super Bowl of track and field,” Gosselin said.

    Hausfeld lawyers have been eyeing the Olympic movement for possible legal action, Gosselin said. The firm helped former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon successfully challenge the NCAA on antitrust grounds in 2014, paving the way for many college athletes to receive cost-of-attendance stipends.

    “My firm has been receiving complaints over the last 12 months or so from professional track and field athletes who really feel there are inequities in the sport, and that athletes aren’t receiving a fair share of the revenues that USATF and its corporate sponsors are seeing as the sport of track and field increases in popularity,” Gosselin said.

    To date, Symmonds and his fellow athlete’s rights advocates have focused on athlete income. But as this case makes clear, Symmonds thinks corporations are being wronged, too. At 32, Symmonds will compete at the Trials for probably the last time and he’s trying to expand Run Gum.

    “We estimate there’s about 1,200 athletes competing, and 60 percent will not have an official deal with a shoe company,” Symmonds said. “That’s 720 athletes we’d like to work with, and they’re not able to court sponsors.”

    Run Gum has discussed sponsorship deals with some track and field athletes but has not yet signed any.

    Tags: USOC, Law and Politics, Olympics
  • Day 1 of NFL owners meeting features Iger presentation

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    SportsBusiness Journal/Daily’s Daniel Kaplan is in Houston for this week’s NFL owners meeting on possible franchise relocation to Los Angeles. He filed this report on today’s activities.

    Covering an NFL owners meeting is never easy: chasing after owners, being restricted on where you can go, getting people to talk (or not). But this week’s NFL owners meeting in Houston on Los Angeles relocation — it’s unique in its own right.

    First, the media is not even allowed on the same floor as the owners, so the usual news-gathering techniques are out the door. Second, more than 200 media representatives were credentialed for this meeting. To give an idea of how big that is, that’s more than for an annual meeting, and far and away more than other meetings through the year.

    Many outlets sent multiple reporters, ranging from local newspapers whose hometowns may lose a team to ESPN.

    Bob Iger is surrounded by reporters on Tuesday.
    Perhaps the highlight of the day for the media was when Walt Disney Co. Chairman and CEO Bob Iger, who would run the Carson project proposed by the Raiders and Chargers, chose to go to the media level Starbucks for a cappuccino. He was swarmed by dozens of media members — and conducted an interview at the Starbucks counter (see picture).

    “You guys are desperate,” he said jokingly as he left. (For the record, he also said he thinks momentum is behind the Carson effort and that owners are ready to make a decision.)

    Most meetings also don’t come with Dr. Death outside holding up signs, something that is surely bewildering motorists passing by the Westin Houston, Memorial City, where the meetings are being held. (For those not familiar: Dr. Death is the 28-year-old Raiders superfan who has been at almost as many league meetings this year as Raiders games). In all, there were a dozen fan protesters on-site today: nine Raiders fans, two Rams fans and one lonely Chargers fan.

    How do I know this is a special meeting though? Easy. Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen is here. By my count, it’s his third meeting in 10 years, with there being on average four or five meetings a year. The first was in August 2006, outside Chicago, when owners voted in Roger Goodell as the league’s new commissioner. The second was in July 2011, in Atlanta, when owners approved a new collective-bargaining agreement after a 4 1/2-month lockout. And then there’s now, January 2016, in Houston.

    Of course, there’s been news today as well. SportsBusinessDaily was the first outlet to report that the league’s Los Angeles committee voted to approve the Carson project over the Inglewood project. (Sources said it was 5 to 1 in favor, with the one being Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt).

    As for Iger, we knew he would be here for the presentation but not that he would take the lead role on Carson’s behalf. No knock against Rams President Kevin Demoff, who made the presentation for that franchise’s desired new home in Inglewood, but it must not have been easy to go up against the man who runs arguably the top entertainment brand in the world.

    What’s next? There’s a lot of talk about whether this could all end tonight, even with the meeting scheduled to run through tomorrow. That’s doubtful, though: 24 votes are needed for approval, and more politicking is necessary — and with more time comes pressure and leverage.

    The L.A. committee vote is important, and in all the years I have covered the league I have never seen full ownership reject a committee recommendation. That said, this is an unprecedented situation, so if there were to be a first, this could be it.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Video of the Week: Stories of the Year

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    Executive Editor Abe Madkour takes a look at the stories, people and issues that made news this year, and talks about what we'll be looking for in 2016. 

    Tags: OTG Video, In The Studio
  • Sports Business WakeUp!: A new day for college sports

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    A DIFFERENT DAY: Change has come to college sports. It may be gradual, it may be overdue, and there’s much more on the way. But the consensus is that there is a different environment – for the NCAA, for the Power 5 and for everyone else. A clear focus by speakers during Day 1 of the ’15 IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum was the well-being of the student athlete – over time demands, health and wellness, player safety and other issues. In terms of governance, there remain questions about the future role of the NCAA, and while most believe there is a future, that future will be different. As former SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said at the end of the day, “We need the NCAA to be helpful. To be helpful.”

    Now, more from day one and what to look for on Thursday:

    EMMERT TIPS OFF: NCAA President Mark Emmert, fighting a head cold and sore throat and carrying green tea with him to the stage, opened the Forum in a one-on-one interview with SBJ/SBD Exec Editor Abe Madkour, setting the tone for many of the topics discussed during the rest of the day. Emmert clearly had a mission in his remarks – a resolute focus on the well-being of the student athlete and a stress on admission standards that will ensure academic success for today’s athletes. He also touched on the one-and-done rule in college basketball, calling the NBA's requirement for players to attend college for one year before going pro “utterly antithetical” to the NCAA’s mission, and on the need to give student athletes more time off. “I’d try to find blocks of time for students,” he said, “whether it’s a day or two a week, whether it’s a block of time in the postseason or a block of time in the summer, where they don’t have any athletic responsibilities. And we’ve failed to do that for them.” Emmert is consistently on message, and you can see that in our expanded writeup on his remarks in SportsBusiness Daily.

    MEDIA DAY: Roughly 15 members of the national media surrounded Emmert outside the ballroom after his appearance on stage. Among the questions asked by reporters:
            – Should the NCAA determine whether an athlete’s high school is good enough academically? Emmert: “Our membership has got to decide if they want a national association to verify that a high school is legitimate. Nobody is advocating that right now.”
            – It seems like every time a group of athletes speaks out or takes action, rules change quickly. Is that the case? Emmert said rules take a long time to change, and that there is no cause and effect. “We had a young man stand up [at a tournament] and say he went to bed hungry the night before, and the next week the food rules changed. That change had been in the works for two years,” and was up for a vote the next week.
            – Is it appropriate for so many 5-7 teams to be invited to bowl games? Emmert: “The football oversight committee is already having engaged conversations about that. As long as you’ve got 40 bowls, you have to have 80 teams to play in them. Our members have to decide if all of these bowls serve a purpose. The thing I’ll be nagging on is: Is this a good experience for students?”
            In addition, there were large media contingents around commissioners Bob Bowlsby, Greg Sankey and John Swofford, and the NCAA’s Oliver Luck.

    FROM THE HUDDLE: Four college football players gave attendees a close look at what it’s like to be an athlete on campus. Led by ESPN’s Jay Williams, a former Duke basketball star, the players talked about everything from paying athletes to the time demands that prohibit some players from selecting the major they want. The panelists were clear on the benefits of their scholarships. Said Baylor's Spencer Drango: “[That] I’m halfway through a master’s degree with no student debt at all is unbelievable. …You can start with a clean slate when you get out." But they were also willing to talk about the tough issues they face. The players, all members of the 2015 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class, were Ohio State center Jacoby Boren, Mississippi State defensive back Taveze Calhoun, Baylor offensive tackle Drango and Kent State safety Jordan Italiano. They were also finalists for the NFF’s Campbell Trophy, which is awarded to the top football scholar-athlete in the country. Read more in today’s SBD.

    NO LACK OF INTENSITY: New SEC Commissioner Sankey touched on the workload of a conference leader. Since taking over in June for the legendary Slive, Sankey said he’s been struck by “the pace and intensity. It never stops. That has caused a narrowing of focus, and you never get away from it. So you have to reconfigure how you manage your energy and your day.” Joining Sankey on the commissioner panel were the ACC’s Swofford and the Big 12’s Bowlsby. Not surprisingly, they spent a lot of time discussing – and defending – the College Football Playoff system (and, of course, all were bullish on it!), while also covering topics as varied as social activism and selling alcohol at sporting events.

    GUILT BY ASSOCIATION: Former U.S. Congressman and 11-year NBA player Tom McMillen spoke publicly about his new role as CEO of the Division 1A Athletic Directors Association. He stressed the need for athletic directors at the highest level to pull together in order to move their industry forward. “There needs to be a stronger and more powerful and more unified voice of athletic directors with respect to college sports,” McMillen said. “We are going to see a tipping point over the next few years in college sports – litigation, player rights … there are a lot of things happening. But we want to preserve a lot of the great things in college sports and want to make it even better.”

    STORYTELLING: McMillen touched on his fascinating background as a student-athlete and NBA player. A couple of fun anecdotes:
            — He got all "A's" when he attended the Univ. of Maryland, but had one "B." It’s interesting that his "B" was in "Speech and Speaking," as the Rhodes Scholar is engaging on stage. He talked about why he believes he got the "B." "My photo was on the front page of the Washington Post, standing right next to President Nixon, when I was named to the President's Council On Fitness,” he said. “My Speech professor was very much against the Vietnam War and very anti-government policy at that time, and I believe she felt I was too close to President Nixon."
            Another interesting note: Asked who was the toughest player to take on in the NBA, he said, "Larry Bird. Maybe not surprising. But I found him a very challenging player for me to defend."

    SPEAKER GETS THE MOST LAUGHS: The always-engaging Chris Del Conte, AD at TCU, had the audience constantly laughing during a presentation on the branding and design of the school’s Hall of Fame and facilities. Asked about possibly selling naming rights to sections of the Hall of Fame, he said, "I'm like NASCAR, I'll sell everything. The bathroom … everywhere." Asked about the cost of the project, he mocked a whipping sound: "Thank you, sir, may I have another??!! These guys (pointing to developer Advent) took me to the cleaners. … Ha! But don't let cost get in the way of a good story. It was a lot!"

    AND THE IAF’S BEST DRESSED: Del Conte was rocking the purple-and-white colors of his Horned Frog program, with a stylish purple blazer, purple tie and purple handkerchief to go with a white dress shirt, trendy jeans and brown boots. He probably also deserves his own Quote Board. Here are two things we heard often during the presentation: “No bueno,” and “Ha!” (On the latter, think of the staccato voice of Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman.”)

    THE COMMISH ENDS THE DAY: Former SEC Commissioner Slive and SEC Network personality Paul Finebaum closed the first day with a lively 30-minute conversation that started with an update on Slive’s health. His energetic response brought applause from the audience. “Cancer is a competitor,” he said, “like any other competitor. I’ll be damned if it’s going to get me. Being here is part of that battle.” Slive was relaxed and in good spirits and clearly enjoyed playing off the questions of his friend Finebaum. He touched on his legacy, role of the NCAA, the success of the CFP and the attributes of leadership. “Leadership, to me, is really about being a decent human being and caring for people,” he said. His litmus test for leadership: “How you treat people who can’t do anything for you.” It was a feel-good session and a fascinating look at a man who accomplished so much in college sports.

    CREATING A STIR: Two of the remarks at the Forum that got the most media attention came from the morning’s AD panel, which included North Carolina State’s Debbie Yow and Alabama’s Bill Battle. They managed to ignite a social media firestorm when talking about their efforts to educate athletes on financial responsibility, related to the athletes’ new income from Cost of Attendance stipends. ”You know you’ve failed when you see them on their new hoverboards,” Yow said. To which Battle added: “Or tattoos and rims.” Battle later had to clarify his comments to AL.com, but that didn’t stop the momentum, as the story was picked up and carried forward by media as varied as Deadspin and Syracuse.com. "It was a frivolous statement that was meant to be cute,” Battle said.

    SEEN AND HEARD: Before the formal program launched Wednesday morning, IMG College and Veritix hosted a breakfast for athletic directors. USF’s Mark Harlan and Ole Miss’ Ross Bjork, who used to work together at UCLA, shared stories over coffee about the Rebels’ new basketball arena with Appalachian State’s Doug Gillin. Tim Pernetti, from IMG College and a former AD at Rutgers, spoke briefly to welcome the group and spent time with the NCAA’s Mark Lewis and Oliver Luck. And data analytics experts Michael Thompson from Ole Miss and Texas A&M’s Jason Cook shared stories in advance of their panel later in the day. … Sankey is known for his workout routine, but the commissioner was visibly frustrated by his lack of gym time recently due to his travel and crazy schedule, and predicted he wouldn't get in a solid workout until Friday. “And then I'll really feel it." …. Big 12 boss Bowlsby was in a clearly better place than last year at this time, when the Big 12 was absent from the inaugural College Football Playoff. Having Oklahoma in the CFP brought an easy smile and relaxed vibe during his appearance. “I was in a patently unhappy place last year,” he said, “so it was a relatively low bar.”… Slive and his daughter Anna, who accompanied him to the event, both got a hug from Finebaum when they walked into the speaker room.


    CHECKING IN WITH DAVID STERN: Since he retired from the NBA after three decades as commissioner on Feb. 1, 2014, David Stern has been consulting, traveling and continually studying the latest technologies. Stern will sit with Madkour to start the morning in what should be a wide-ranging interview touching on everything from Stern's view of today's athlete, daily fantasy, gaming, the future of e-sports and the growth of the global sports economy.

    WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN DAY TWO: Six national media members will offer their perspective on the state of college sports -- everything from the health of the bowl system, to the CFP, to how college basketball can be rejuvenated and women’s sports can get better media coverage; athletic directors Jack Swarbrick, Kevin White, Ray Anderson and Shane Lyons will discuss the impact of autonomy on their jobs and institutions; another session will examine how to build out a big event and entertainment strategy on campus; and the Forum will close with a look at the latest trends in college sponsorships.

    – Emmert: “People think schools play sports because they make so much money on it, and they absolutely don’t.”
    – Ohio State center Boren: “At some point, we're not regular students. [Regular students] don't get death threats if they mess up in the game. They don't get hate mail.”
    – Swofford, on athletes taking stands on social issues: “We don’t live in a vacuum in the sports world. And I recall Dean Smith, who often said that he hopes that sports leads society and doesn’t just reflect it.”
    – Kansas State President and NCAA BOG Chair Kirk Schulz: “The NCAA is perceived as the IRS. But we’ve reformed.”
    – Slive, on the state of college athletics: “Do we have the fortitude, do we have the courage to keep [college athletics] in perspective? It has to be part of higher education.”

    SOCIAL ANIMALS: Social media traffic was great throughout the day, resulting in #SBJIAF trending on Twitter across the country. Click here to see all of the tweets from yesterday. Here are some that we liked:

    @RealJayWilliams: So excited to host the #SBJIAF & do a panel discussion with 4 amazing athletes. @Espn
    @JasonBelzer: 8 of the 25 individuals ranked in @Forbes Most Powerful People In College Sports will be speaking at #SBJIAF forbes.com/sites/jasonbel…
    @LinaTaylorInt: The student athlete perspective. It's really all about them so involving them in the conversation is key. #SBJIAF pic.twitter.com/e2Irpb5hvi
    @GregSankey: In a cab heading to #SBJIAF after finishing a morning meeting on #SECStoried...don't start the panel without me! pic.twitter.com/VgD3igDfXG
    @D1Ticker: Will the NCAA be around in 2020? Bit of a pause from Sankey/Bowlsby/Swofford, but "no indication otherwise." So, yes.
    @Kstate_pres: I enjoyed visiting with @bradwolverton in a wide ranging conversation at #SBJIAF about @NCAA & D1 athletics

    And many thanks to some frequent tweeters who kept the conversation going: @bradwolverton, @JasonBelzer and @D1ticker.

    DROP CARDS, WIN PRIZES: Several sponsors are holding giveaways during this year’s Forum. Just drop your card off for a chance to win.
            Barclays Center announced the winners of its ticket giveaway. Mark Devaney of Langan won two tickets to a Nets game, and Michael Braunfield of Maryville University won two tickets to the ACC/A-10 doubleheader on Dec. 22. Still to come: Networking break sponsor DTI Management will give away a pair of tickets to the NCAA Final Four championship. And breakfast sponsor Ticket Galaxy will award a $500 gift card good toward the purchase of event tickets on TicketGalaxy.com. In addition, official design sponsor HOK will give away an iPad mini.
            Check out the complete list of IAF sponsors and exhibitors.

    CONFERENCE COORDINATES: All of our sessions will be held on the seventh floor of the Marquis. You can get their via the elevators or zoom up on the escalators from the ground floor. Registration, breakfast and exhibits open at 7:45 a.m.

    WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: All the information you need about the conference — agenda, speakers, venue, etc. — can be found in the conference app and the program guide. You can download the app from the iTunes store or the Google Play store, and you can use any device to view our digital program guide.

    SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: If you’re in the room today, we hope you’ll contribute to the conversation. You can send questions to our session moderators by using the IAF app or by texting ‘SBJSBD’ to 22-333 to join our session. If you are posting tweets or photos, be sure to use the conference hashtag: #SBJIAF. We will recognize the most active and engaging users over the next two days.

    FOLLOW OUR FEEDS: Follow all of our social media posts throughout the conference using our Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram feeds.

    Tags: GE, NCAA, CAA, ING, IMG, SEC, CES, Basketball, NBA, ATT
  • Sports Business WakeUp!: A new day for college sports

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    WE’RE SIGNING OFF, SO GIVE US YOUR THOUGHTS!: As we lower the curtain on the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, our final conference of the year, we also conclude our series of Wake Up! morning e-mails. We started them in April at our World Congress of Sports, and have continued to send them every morning when we have a conference or awards event. We hope you’ve found them to be a fun, breezy and informative read, giving you a sense of what’s taking place on the ground. Let us know your thoughts and what you’d like to see from the emails as we continue this effort in 2016.

    SO YOU WANT TO WORK IN COLLEGE SPORTS?: There’s a widespread belief that collegiate athletics is one of the most challenging and dynamic industries in sports today. After two days at the Forum in New York City, it’s hard to argue with that. Consider the challenges that were discussed during the conference: massive revenue pressure, student-athlete well-being, fund-raising, compliance and enforcement, media demands, coaching salaries, non-revenue and Olympic sports, facilities needs and the future of the NCAA. Add it all up and you have a fast-paced, evolving landscape where one size certainly does not fit all. It may not be the Wild West of three or four years ago, but there is no doubt the business challenges and pressures in college sports are not for the meek – and not over, as most speakers at the conference agreed that we will be facing these same questions for years to come.

    EASY DAVID: A relaxed, easy-going David Stern took the stage on Thursday morning and offered thoughtful, humorous and pointed commentary on technology, global media trends, the future of gaming, threats to college sports and his own non-political ambitions. During a 35-minute back-and-forth with Executive Editor Abe Madkour, the retired long-time NBA commissioner talked about how much he is learning in his new world of consulting and traveling. He was more outspoken than ever, noting at one point that he no longer had his general counsel looking over his shoulder. Among the topics he covered: His disdain for Congress, whose dysfunction he experienced firsthand whenever he was called to testify before a committee. Most of those hearings, he said, served mainly as outlets for legislators to make speeches. “I have been to Congress on more occasions than I care to remember,” he said. “And this is what happens: There’s an opening statement by the chairman, who denounces or supports something. There are opening statements by the 15 or 16 people on the committee. Then the camera turns to the people who testify, and everyone leaves the room except for the chairman. And they grill us … and then the hearing comes to a close. And nothing happens. Unless Bud [Selig] brings along Hank Aaron, and then they all want to talk to him.”

        Given Stern’s comments, Madkour said, “Obviously, we need you to run for office because you feel so strongly about the power of Washington.” Stern: “That is not happening. That’s the one thing I can assure you.” In August, the New York Post reported that friends have urged Stern to run for New York City mayor in 2017. But Stern, a Democrat, denied any interest then and now. Madkour followed: “So you will not accept the Democratic nomination for president?” Stern went even further: “Or the Republican.” However, Stern did make a vague prediction on his way out: That he’d “go visit President Clinton” someday in the future. And what about Donald Trump? Is he surprised by his rise? Stern says no. "Hey, he was the owner of the New Jersey Generals of the USFL,” said Stern. “His first public platform was that he was the guy who had a contract with Herschel Walker. We in sports know where you get strength from.”

        Overseen in the green room: Big East Commissioner (and former Stern colleague) Val Ackerman and Division 1A Athletic Directors Association CEO Tom McMillen warmly greeting Stern as he had a cinnamon role and coffee and spent a little time telling stories.

    SPENDING OVER THE TOP?: Top execs on the “Headlines of the Day” panel were concerned about over-the-top, but it had nothing to do with media programming. They looked at the amount of money being spent on college campuses, wondering how much is too much? And is money going to the right places? “There is probably some spending that is probably over the top,” said American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco. “I don’t think you need to have Taj Mahal’s everywhere. Much more important is how smart you are in spending your money.” Oliver Luck, the former West Virginia AD who is now EVP of Regulatory Affairs at the NCAA, said, “I’m not sure there is any real crisis in spending, but certainly we can do a better job getting bang for the buck.” Part of the problem, said IMG College’s Tim Pernetti, former AD at Rutgers, is the number of people with different interests involved in any decision. “There was a never a project that we studied or put forth [at Rutgers] that wasn’t being done with probably too many chefs in the kitchen,” he said. “Everyone was involved and nothing gets done unilaterally.” Among other topics during the panel: whether athletics should be subsidized by universities, and whether even food service for athletes has become a part of the collegiate athletics “arms race.”

    MEDIA MATTERS: During a panel of six prominent journalists who cover the collegiate sports landscape, there was plenty of concern about the widening gap between the Power 5 conferences and the rest of the field, as well as disagreement over topics such as college basketball’s one-and-done rule. When it comes to revenue disparities, panelists decried the efforts of smaller schools and conferences to try to keep up with their richer brethren. “The gap between the Power 5 and the rest is going to grow,” said ESPN’s Brett McMurphy. “We’re going to see a further widening. And, in the long term, it can’t be sustained.” On one-and-done, Campus Insiders’ Bonnie Bernstein said the practice goes against the spirit of college sports, but USA Today’s Dan Wolken disagreed. Bernstein: “The current one-and-done is ridiculous. Why are we forcing kids to do this? If you’re set on going pro, you should go to the D-League and take your chances.” Wolken responded: “I think one-and-done has made college basketball better, not worse.” See The Daily for more.

    A-D ROUNDTABLE: Rarely do you get a group of such smart and thoughtful panelists together as during our athletic director session on Thursday. Moderated by former Missouri AD Mike Alden, the group included Notre Dame’s Jack Swarbrick, Duke’s Kevin White, Arisona State’s Ray Anderson and West Virginia’s Shane Lyons. One of the major topics was concern for the Olympic sports. White, who was appointed to the USOC board earlier this year, spoke strongly about the need for maintaining Olympic sports on campus. “If we continue to have Olympic sports downsized or morph into club sports, we’ve lost the battle,” he said. Anderson said he is determined to increase the number of those sports offered by his school. “We’re doing a disservice to our community and our student body if we’re not providing those scholarship opportunities,” he said.

    MEDIA CENTER: Here’s a roundup of some of the national media coverage of the conference:
        – CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd covered NCAA President Mark Emmert’s remarks about holding events in Las Vegas.
        – Yahoo’s Pat Forde wrote about our Power 5 commissioners session in a piece on why the College Football Playoff won’t expand any time soon.
        – From Patrick Rishe at Forbes.com, a story on how more commercialization benefits student-athletes.
        – Comments by North Carolina State’s Debbie Yow and Alabama’s Bill Battle on teaching athletes financial responsibility were picked up by national media outlets, including Deadspin and Syracuse.com.
        – Al.com talked to Luck to get clarification on his on-stage comments about why coaches get paid in an open market, but not players.
        – USA Today wrote that Stern defends daily fantasy, knocks Congress.
    To see more coverage, do an online search for “Intercollegiate Athletics Forum.”

    – Stern, on daily fantasy sports: “It’s clearly a game of skill.”
    – White: “We used to celebrate our Olympic sports. Now we tolerate them.”
    – Aresco, on college coaching salaries: “It is the marketplace. But it would be foolish to think it’s not one of our Achilles’ heels as we deal with these lawsuits. Sometimes you simply have to pay to get the best people.”
    – Luck, on coaches salaries: “As a pragmatic matter, there’s no solution except restraint.”
    – Fox College Sports Properties’ Dan Shell, on the value proposition of college sports versus pro sports: “Pro is great, but it’s largely centered around the game itself. But in college, it becomes more of a 365-day experience. And there’s value there in college that doesn’t exist in pro. Your alumni, they’re there whether you’re 3-9 or 9-3.”

    SOCIAL ANIMALS: The great social media action around the conference continued on Day 2. You can get a look at all of it by reading through tweets that used the conference hashtag – #SBJIAF. Here are some of the posts we liked:

    @SMorganBaird: @AaronTaylorCFB great comments at #SBJIAF. Agree with the vocational track opts for football players. Well said.
    @JasonBelzer: Love that @Tim_Pernetti has no issues speaking his mind on college sports but Jeffery Kessler is salivating with some of these lines
    @BeckysBuzz: Uncensored David Stern speaking at #SBJIAF revved up the morning session #e-sportsVsUFC #lotteries
    @PRyanTexas: David Stern just brewed us a pot of reali-TEA at #SBJIAF ... Very candid, very smart, 100% correct
    @RHiggins_TBSC: Congrats to @sbjsbd on another phenomenal #SBJIAF. Great annual gathering of several of the brightest minds in college #sportsbiz!

    And many thanks to a few people who kept the social media conversation going: @JasonBelzer, @IMGCollege and @LinaTaylorInt.

    WINNER, WINNER: HOK, official design sponsor of the Forum, awarded an iPad mini to Becky Cox of Bristol Motor Speedway.

    NEXT ON THE CALENDAR: We’ve already got a great lineup — including 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch, Creative Artists Agency president Richard Lovett and Golden State Warriors owners Peter Guber and Joe Lacob — for our 2016 CAA World Congress of Sports, which will be held April 13-14 at the J.W. Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live. You can get the latest on the speaker roster, or register for the conference, by clicking here.

    Tags: GE, NCAA, CAA, ING, IMG, SEC, CES, Basketball, NBA, ATT
  • Sports Business WakeUp!: College Sports Hits Gotham

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    A TRADITION CONTINUES: The college sports business world descends on New York City this week for the National Football Foundation Awards dinner, the Jimmy V Classic, the Heisman Trophy ceremony, and, over the next two days, the 14th annual IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum at the Marriott Marquis at Times Square. Between all of the events at the Marquis and the Waldorf Astoria, you’re likely to see a college sports official wherever you look. And, yes, the weather is cooperating fully, with mild temperatures expected all week. If you’re headed our way today from outside the Marquis, you may want to wear a coat. The forecast is for clouds and a high of 54. We’re good with that.

    A WHITE-HOT SPACE: In case you needed any more evidence of just how much action there is in the college sports space, take a good look around the ballroom this morning for the opening of the Forum. You’ll be elbowing your way through a crowd of 600 attendees — the largest ever for this event. It’s more proof that virtually everyone connected to the business is trying to manage the challenges and opportunities in this dynamic part of the sports industry. Expect a packed day, with in-depth looks at major topics like cost of attendance, Big 5 governance and autonomy, and how schools are scoring big with great design and technology. We’ll dig deep through a series of breakout sessions, and then we’ll reward you for spending the day thinking so much by letting you relax in one of the best spots in the city.

    ANOTHER TRADITION CONTINUES: It seems like an annual rite of the Forum – an opening sit-down with NCAA President Mark Emmert, who last year at this event told Executive Editor Abe Madkour that the next 36-to-48 months would be “some of the most important months in the history of college sports.” Expect an update on that key time frame from Emmert, who was just named No. 38 on SBJ’s annual list of the 50 most influential people in sports business. Emmert is comfortable in this session and uses it to outline key themes of his agenda, and he is not known for being shy with his opinions. Expect him to elaborate on his recent warning to schools that they have an “ethical responsibility” not to admit athletes who are academic mismatches, on his stand against allowing advertising from daily fantasy companies during the NCAA basketball tournaments, and on his support of the recent activism by student-athletes who have taken a stand on issues related to their campuses. These 40 minutes traditionally set the tone for the two days.

    STUDENT-ATHLETE PERSPECTIVE: If you attended this conference last year, you were probably as impressed as we were by the mature and clear-headed perspectives offered by our panel of student athletes. We expect today’s panel to be just as enlightening and thought-provoking, as ESPN’s Jay Williams will guide a discussion featuring four top-notch college football players: Jacoby Boren of Ohio State, Taveze Calhoun of Mississippi State, Spencer Drango of Baylor and Jordan Italiano of Kent State.

    COUNTING THE COSTS: We’ll be taking a close look from two angles today at the effects of one of the most important issues of the last few years — schools paying the full cost of attendance for their athletes. First, college sports beat writer Michael Smith will talk with four athletic directors from the Power 5 conferences about how their departments are handling the issue. On the panel: Bill Battle of Alabama (who will surely be asked about the school’s College Football Playoff chances, as well!), Dan Guerrero of UCLA, Jay Jacobs of Auburn and Debbie Yow of N.C. State.
            Smith will look at the issue from another direction later in the day when he talks with ADs from smaller conferences: Troy Dannen, who just accepted the Tulane AD position after years at Northern Iowa, Doug Gillin of Appalachian State, Mark Harlan of South Florida and Warde Manuel of Connecticut.

    MORE FROM THE POWER 5: While the main focus of the panel of three power commissioners is governance and the opportunities of Power 5 autonomy, expect a wide-ranging discussion when Madkour sits with the Big 12’s Bob Bowlsby, the SEC’s Greg Sankey and the ACC’s John Swofford. This will be one of the first major public speaking appearances for Sankey in front of industry executives since he took over for Mike Slive in June.

    The commissioner’s panel should be a great setup for two interviews that will follow our lunch break. First, guest moderator Brad Wolverton of The Chronicle of Higher Education talks with Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz. Schulz is chairman of the NCAA board of governors, which makes him one of the most powerful administrators in intercollegiate athletics. Then Smith returns to the stage for 20 questions with Tom McMillen, CEO of the Division 1A Athletic Directors’ Association, who will offer the rare perspective of a former Rhodes Scholar and former NBA player.

    COMMISSIONER EMERITUS: We’ll close the day with what should be a highly entertaining session between Slive, whose voice and influence helped shape college sports over the last 12 years, and outspoken ESPN/SEC Network TV and radio commentator Paul Finebaum. These two have long histories and a lot to talk about. To set the stage for the conversation, check out Smith’s profile of Slive from SBJ’s July 27 issue.

    AND THEN, YOUR REWARDS: After a long day that will feature 14 (!) sessions on intercollegiate athletics, we’ll treat you to two opportunities to network and enjoy drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Immediately following the Slive interview, we’ll have a networking reception outside the ballroom. Then, at 9:30 p.m., we’ll have an after-hours reception at The View, the rotating restaurant on the 47th floor of the Marquis. We hope to see you there!

    NYC SPORTS SCENE: The calendar is bare today, after the city saw lots of hoops action last night (the Nets beat the Rockets at Barclays Center, and at the Jimmy V Classic at MSG, it was Maryland over UConn and Virginia beating West Virginia). Of course, there’s always plenty to do in New York. We’d love to hear what IAF attendees are doing when they aren’t at the conference, so shoot us an email and/or a photo, and we may include you in our next newsletter.

    CONFERENCE COORDINATES: All of our sessions will be held on the seventh floor of the Marquis. You can get their via the elevators or zoom up on the escalators from the ground floor. Registration, breakfast and exhibits open at 8 a.m.

    WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: All the information you need about the conference — agenda, speakers, venue, etc. — can be found in the conference app and the program guide. You can download the app from the iTunes store or the Google Play store, and you can use any device to view our digital program guide.

    SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: If you’re in the room today, we hope you’ll contribute to the conversation. You can send questions to our session moderators by using the IAF app or by texting ‘SBJSBD’ to 22-333 to join our session. If you are posting tweets or photos, be sure to use the conference hashtag: #SBJIAF. We will recognize the most active and engaging users over the next two days.

    FOLLOW OUR FEEDS: Follow all of our social media posts throughout the conference using our Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram feeds.

    DROP CARDS, WIN PRIZES: Three of the Forum sponsors want to help get you tickets to your next sporting event. When you go into the lunch room today, drop your business card off with Barclays Center, our luncheon sponsor, for a chance to win two tickets to see the Nets play or two tickets for the Dec. 22 ACC/A-10 double header. Drop your business card off with networking break sponsor DTI Management for a chance to win a pair of tickets to the NCAA Final Four championship. And drop your card with breakfast sponsor Ticket Galaxy for a chance to win a $500 gift card good toward the purchase of event tickets on TicketGalaxy.com.
            In addition, official design sponsor HOK will award an iPad to a lucky winner.
            Check out the complete list of IAF sponsors and exhibitors.

    SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS: There will be 16 students at the Forum today courtesy of our official scholarship partner, The Ticket Experience. Be sure to say hello and encourage them as they try to build careers in the industry. Here are the names of the scholarship recipients, listed by their school: Columbia: Steve Chasey, Grant Reed, John Kinne and Andrea Young; NYU: Jennifer Romer, Peter Talman and Tianyu Zheng; South Florida: Jordan Bellar; Central Florida: Austin Bloom; Maryville: Michael Braunfeld; Mississippi: Alexander Cramer and Mandy Rose McCalla; Oregon: Mary Lynn Moshofsky and Alexis Taylor; Cardinal Stritch: Kory Olson; and UCLA: Natalie Warkins.

    NEXT ON THE CALENDAR: We’ve already got a great lineup — including 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch, Creative Artists Agency president Richard Lovett and Golden State Warriors owners Peter Guber and Joe Lacob — for our 2016 CAA World Congress of Sports, which will be held April 13-14 at the J.W. Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live. You can get the latest on the speaker roster, or register for the conference, by clicking here.

    Tags: GE, Football, IMG, Marriott, ING, ATT, Ally, In-Depth, NCAA, CAA, NFL, Most Influential, Opinion, Basketball
  • Sports Business Wake-Up!: What Happened in Vegas …

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    SEARCHING FOR GROWTH: If there was one takeaway from the Daytona Rising/NASCAR Motorsports Marketing Forum in Las Vegas, it was the desire by all motorsports groups represented to grow on every front -- fan base, viewership, attendance, you name it. There was a feeling that motorsports has stabilized, and that there are real possibilities for collaboration and a focus on working together across constituencies to find ways to grow. For NASCAR, there was a remarkable outline by Race Team Alliance Chairman Rob Kauffman and NASCAR COO Brent Dewar, who spoke individually of the efforts to set up a new financial and governance model leading to more stability and transparency. And new NHRA President Peter Clifford gave a well-received outline of his ideas for growth and spoke from the heart as someone who has been at the series since 1997 but now has a chance to implement his vision. There was a sense of optimism and opportunity. Now the focus is on execution.

    VISIT FROM THE CHAMP: 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch included a stop at the forum as part of his whirlwind week of team, media and sponsor appearances following a successful year on the track. Busch was talkative on stage and gracious off of it, chatting with well-wishers, posing for selfies and sitting with a group of reporters before he went on stage to talk about everything from winning races to the Denver Broncos’ chances of getting to the Super Bowl.
            Here are a few quick hits from the interview, which was conducted by Fox NASCAR pit reporter Jamie Little:
            — On whether his marketing efforts will become more oriented toward kids now that he’s a father: “Not necessarily. I’m talking to mom. Mom’s the one who buys it for the kids. So I’ve got to make sure mom is happy.”
            — On whether he would like to act in the new NASCAR television series being developed: “I would be up for it, certainly. What I’m trying to push … It would be pretty unique to try to remake the story of what the past 18 months of my life, and my wife’s life, has been like. Our whole journey of infertility, and the things we did, and the injury at Daytona, and the rehab getting back, winning, having Brexton, and just going through all that. So Hollywood should buy that script. I think it would be pretty good. … And the way it ended, that’s the whole storyline. If we finished second, then it’s not a movie.”
            — On how his relationship with fans has changed over the years: “My relationship with the fans has been pretty interesting over the years. When I came into the sport, I was 18, and I went to my first Xfinity race … and I went to driver intros and I got booed, and was like, ‘Wait a second, this is my first race. … I didn’t do anything wrong.’ I was a little bit guilty by association with my brother, but that’s OK. … But (now) I’ve got great fans of my own. … It all comes together. This year I definitely noticed some sort of change in the fans and the reception that I got.”

    GOOD ANSWER: We had to appreciate the honest answer given by the NHRA’s Clifford when asked about the negative perception from some after the former CFO, labeled a "money guy," was chosen to lead a sport searching for new energy. "I have been closely involved in this sport for the last 18 years,” he said. “I would argue that I know more about this sport — the business, the drivers, the fans and what it needs — than anyone else out there. The NHRA has been tremendous to me and I love the NHRA. Absolutely love it. I have been waiting years for this opportunity because I know what I want to do to move the sport forward. Why should the fact that I was a CFO be a negative? I believe I know what the sport needs.” The opinion from many corners: Clifford nailed that question.

    DAYTONA IS RISING: We couldn't help but be impressed watching Daytona International Speedway’s Joie Chitwood offer visuals showing the massive $400M renovation at the track. He artfully showed old photos of signage, grandstands, hospitality areas and the speedway tower juxtaposed with images from the dramatically renovated facility. It left everyone anxious to see the new track next season.

    A TRUE, MODERN MOTORSPORTS STADIUM: ISC CEO Lesa France Kennedy opened Day 2 by sharing her own thoughts about the Daytona Rising project. From escalators to higher seating to more than 1,600 video screens, the massive upgrade is all about enhancing the fan experience. “It will be a true, modern motorsports stadium,” she said. “Something like we haven’t seen before.” France stressed the importance of pleasing both current fans and potential fans. “We’re going to be able to offer all kinds of events: concerts, maybe some soccer friendlies, football… It will really open up our world,” she said. “It will also expose other people to NASCAR. Maybe they haven’t been before, but they’ll see the facility and have a great time, then come back to a NASCAR event. I think if you get them there one time, you have a really great chance of hooking them.”

    REACHING THE NEXT GENERATION: Everyone is trying to reach them, and everyone was taking notes. Gen Z, the demographic segment that includes people born in the years 1995-2015, will be the largest group in America by 2025, said Fuse partner Bill Carter, one the top experts on youth marketing, during a featured presentation. In marketing to this powerful group, Carter said brands should follow the lead of young consumers. “They want a brand to use Instagram the way they use Instagram,” he said. “They have developed the rules of the road on social and they want brands to follow those rules.” Carter revealed the results of some of his company’s research in the last year, including Gen Z’s thoughts on various social media platforms: 
    — Facebook: “For parents posting pics of their kids.”
    — tumblr: “For fandom of music, games and movies.”
    — Twitter: “Tweeting at an event is fun.”
    — Snapchat: “Where I brag and post selfies.”
    — Pinterest: “It’s for people who knit.”
    — Instagram: “What everyone uses.”
            There was lots more interesting info in Carter’s presentation. He provided a copy of the PowerPoint presentation for SBJ/SBD readers.

    CHANGING THE STRUCTURE: Sessions were full throughout the day, but a one-on-one interview between Exec Editor Abe Madkour and the RTA’s Kauffman had virtually every power player in NASCAR in the room listening closely. Kauffman is a smart, deliberate speaker, and every word has meaning. He maintained his cautious optimism that a ground-breaking charter system will be implemented in NASCAR’s ownership ranks in time for the '16 campaign. While much different from franchise systems in stick-and-ball leagues, it would be the closest thing NASCAR has had to such a system since the sport’s inception in the late '40s. The move is widely seen as transformational, because up to now, team owners couldn't accrue long-term values in their operations no matter how long they were in the sport. Kauffman: "The idea is to create a more transparent and stable model for teams and help the teams operate. The financial element is one (part); the governance aspect of the sport is another -- just to have a little more predictability of revenue and the structure you have.” This will clearly be one of the most important stories in NASCAR in ’16, so you’ll want to read more from Kauffman in today’s SBD.

    CHANGING THE STRUCTURE 2: NASCAR’s Dewar was on stage late in the day in an interview with Madkour, following up on some of Kauffman’s comments as well as looking ahead to next season, including the search for a new title sponsor. Asked whether negotiating a deal to change the sport’s ownership structure was one of the hardest of his career, Dewar said, “It’s one of the most challenging. I wouldn’t say hardest. I lived in Brazil, with 40 percent inflation and 7 percent real interest a month, and they change the currency overnight. Those kind of things are really hard. And it was all in Portuguese, so that was an interesting time in my life. But I would say it’s challenging. This is a very complex ecosystem, and … it’s making all these pieces work. We’re committed to do that.” As for the opportunities that come with searching for a sponsor to replace Sprint, Dewar said: “What it allows us to do is to talk about NASCAR. If you think about it, we’ve been out of the market for 10 years. It’s really allowing us an opportunity to talk to a wide group, whether it’s blue-chip domestic companies to international companies to regional companies. And we have a great story to tell.”

    ON THE FOOD FRONT: Fare was a bit more traditional on Wednesday, with a sit-down lunch of filet mignon and potato cakes. There were lots of assorted snacks throughout the day. One of our favorites: the warm apple beignets with vanilla sauce. If you didn’t try those, you missed out.

            — Kennedy, on watching the demolition during the renovation at Daytona International Speedway: “It was a little emotional when they took down the grandstands. That’s been part of my life since the very beginning. It hit close to home.”
            — Carter, on how teens want brands to use social media: “They have developed the rules of the road on social and they want brands to follow those rules.” 
            — Dover Int'l Speedway CEO Michael Tatoian, on getting used to promoting events that have fewer sponsor messages than NASCAR races: “We’d brand our foreheads if we could.”
            — Busch, on which had the greater impact, becoming a father or becoming Cup champ: “Becoming a dad. That’s life. Racing is what we do, and what we love, and what we enjoy, but life comes first.”
            — Kauffman, on deciding to get rid of his stake in Michael Waltrip Racing: "I don't like to quit, but at some point, if you're a disciplined investor and business person, you have to make some decisions about whether it's working or not.”

    We appreciate all of the social action around the conference. You can view the tweet stream, which includes quotes from many of our panelists, on Twitter by searching the hashtag #sbjmmf. Among the tweets we liked:
    @NathanAppleman: (with picture)Bill Johnson and I at the SBJ Motorsports Forum in Vegas. Getting great insight on an amazing market.
    @standeak: (with picture) Always solid - Abe leading today's tech in Motorsports panel. We agree, upgrades are a good example
    @HitBullWinSteak: Great quote from @kauffmanrob today in @sbjsbd #SBJMMF "I don't mind spending money, I don't like losing money"
    @JasonBelzer: Nice timing. Lesa France Kennedy @LesaISC takes stage at #SBJMMF & tops @Forbes most powerful women in sports list

    And a special thanks to a few people who really helped keep the conversation going: @jim_utter, @bobpockrass, @Repucom and @CandiceSpencer.

    — — — DON’T MISS THE 2015 INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETICS FORUM: About 500 leaders of the industry will gather next week at the New York Marriott Marquis at Times Square. You can check out the agenda and speaker roster, or register for the conference, by clicking here.— — —

    Tags: ING, NASCAR, Motorsports, UPS, ATT, GE, Ally, NHRA, Ford, Sprint, Champion, Media, CES, Denver Broncos, Super Bowl, Fox, SEC
  • Entertainment powerhouse duo Burnett and Downey highlight Day 1 of Motorsports Marketing Forum

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    BUCKLE UP: It will be all motorsports, all day at the events center of The Mirage on the Las Vegas strip, as attendees will have more than 10 sessions to take in during the 2015 Daytona Rising/NASCAR Motorsports Marketing Forum. What to expect: a focus on ideas, understanding and technology. It all starts with a brief look at the new Daytona Rising from ISC CEO Lesa France Kennedy. And, following up on her presentation, we’ll present videos throughout the day highlighting three of the facility's fan injector sponsors: Toyota, Chevy and Florida Hospital. The day should provide a valuable time to reflect and to look ahead as the major motorsports series takes a breath after weeks on the road.

    THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT: It's refreshing to see successful people in entertainment (or any industry) stay down-to-earth and approachable. That was the consensus after a fun session last night that opened the conference by looking at the nexus between entertainment and sports, and featured acclaimed producer Mark Burnett, his wife and business partner, Roma Downey, and NASCAR's Zane Stoddard. After a spot-on, two minute sizzle reel that showcased many of their successful endeavors — including "Survivor," “The Apprentice," "Shark Tank," "The Voice," "Touched By An Angel," "The Bible," and "Son of God” — Burnett and Downey talked about how they came to America as young people, broke but with dreams they had dreamed while growing up watching shows like "Kojak," "CHiPS" and "Starsky and Hutch." But they individually charted journeys that eventually made them two of the most powerful and influential people in Hollywood. Buzz during the cocktail hour was how impressed attendees were that both stayed around long after their session, talking, mingling and posing for photos. Tip from both of them: Don't miss "Creed." They watched it over Thanksgiving and both said it was one of the best films they have seen all year.

              It’s all left turns: The sizzle reel showed attendees never-before-seen footage of their movie “Ben-Hur,” including some of the famous chariot race, which took a month to film in Italy. Remarking on their next planned project, a scripted series about NASCAR, Burnett quipped that he was getting used to filming vehicles race around ovals. “Ben-Hur” is set for release next August.

              Clear headlights, full tanks?: Regarding the NASCAR series, which could be telecast as soon as the fourth quarter of 2016, Burnett: “Everyone here knows all the stories of this year, of the larger-than-life characters in the sport. So there’s so much paint on the palette to create a great series. And we’re thinking along the lines of, really, “Friday Night Lights” meets NASCAR. That’s what we are going to be doing.”

              … NASCAR CMO Steve Phelps and COO Brent Dewar came into the speaker room before the session to say hello and share stories with both Burnett and Downey. … Stoddard left his phone on during the session, but we forgive him. He and his wife, Mylin, are expecting their second child at any time. … With presidential candidate Donald Trump being replaced on “Celebrity Apprentice” by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Burnett was asked whether The Governator would have a signature line to replace Trump’s infamous, “You’re fired.” Burnett: "It could be, 'You're terminated.’ Or maybe, 'You won't be back.’”
    Look for more from the opening panel in today’s DAILY.

    ON TODAY’S AGENDA: HEARING FROM THE CHAMP: Fox Sports' NASCAR pit reporter Jamie Little will sit down after lunch with 2015 Sprint Cup Series Champion Kyle Busch, who will open up about his activities around Champion’s Week and what the championship means to his business and brand.

    TECH TALK, CHANGE AND INNOVATION: One of the most anticipated sessions of the day will feature Fuse partner and well-regarded trend analyst Bill Carter talking about ways to market to Gen Z. We’ll have technology sessions examining Microsoft and its plans for how Windows 10 and cloud computing will affect motorsports, and top execs from four tech companies will examine how new applications can assist the sport. Exec Editor Abe Madkour will sit down for two one-on-one interviews during the afternoon. One will be with RTA Chairman Rob Kauffman, who will talk about the possibilities of the much-discussed 'charter' system, which could lead to massive changes in the NASCAR team ownership model. In addition, Madkour will talk with new NHRA President Peter Clifford, who, in one of his first public sit-downs, will offer his vision for the series as it moves to Fox next season after 15 years with ESPN. Other sessions, led by guest moderator Pat Wood, Exec Dir of Motorsport Management at Belmont Abbey College, will examine how tracks are trying to innovate and create memorable events to drive revenue, and highlight four brand leaders who will talk about how they get ROI through their motorsports investments.

    LOOKING AHEAD: The day ends with NASCAR COO Brent Dewar sitting with Madkour as he closes the book on 2015 and looks ahead, and then Daytona Int'l Speedway President Joie Chitwood will bring his energetic outlook to offer a peek into what to expect when the '16 NASCAR season opens at the massively renovated Daytona Rising and Daytona International Speedway.

    WE TREAT YOU RIGHT: Not only did we provide you with a great opening panel yesterday, but we also opened the bar — and the buffet — both before and after the session. (If there’s a better way to guarantee a happy audience, we haven’t found it.) And not only did attendees tell us that the food was good, but they seemed to appreciate the mix of, er, highbrow and lowbrow: beef wellington next to chicken strips, salmon and herb cheese on potato latkes next to chips and pizza. We’ll do what we can to keep everyone similarly well fed today.

    CONFERENCE COORDINATES: After hosting a full house for the entertainment panel, we’re expecting a similar crowd of more than 200 people today in the St. Croix ballroom. Registration, breakfast and exhibits open at 7:30 a.m. PT in the Martinique room. If you’re headed our way from outside the Mirage, you may want to bring a jacket. Weather forecast: Pretty sweet, though a bit cool, with lots of sun and a high of 61.

    WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: All the information you need about the conference — agenda, speakers, venue, etc. — can be found in the conference app and the program guide. You can download the app from the iTunes store or the Google Play store, and you can use any device to view our digital program guide.

    SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: If you’re in the room today, we hope you’ll contribute to the conversation. You can send questions to our session moderators by using the SMT app or by texting ‘SBJSBD’ to 22-333. If you are posting tweets or photos, be sure to use the conference hashtag: #sbjmmf.

    FOLLOW OUR FEEDS: Follow all of our social media posts throughout the conference using our Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram feeds.

    NEXT ON THE CALENDAR: Our Intercollegiate Athletics Forum will be held next week at the New York Marriott Marquis at Times Square. You can check out the agenda and speaker roster, or register for the conference, by clicking here.

    Tags: Motorsports, GE, ATT, ING, NASCAR, Videos, Toyota, CES, ACC, Ally, NFL
  • MLS Cup conference finals: A look at four teams’ business off the pitch

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    The MLS Cup conference finals kick off this weekend. Before the games begin, we checked in with each of the four clubs set to play to see how their on-field success this year has affected their business operations.

    New York Red Bulls: The Red Bulls were hardly a favorite to reach the playoffs when the 2015 season began. Having lost superstar Thierry Henry to retirement following the 2014 season, and with a drastic overhaul of its coaching staff during the offseason, expectations were low.

    What happened, instead, was a season in which the Red Bulls posted the league’s best record. And with the club now in the market for a stadium naming-rights deal, the timing couldn’t have been better.

    “This has been a year where everyone expected us to be challenged both on and off the field, and I think together we’ve really done a tremendous job of rising above any sort of expectations,” said Red Bulls General Manager Marc de Grandpre. “That’s not to say we still don’t have some work to do, but we’re pretty happy with the progress we’ve made.”

    De Grandpre said the club through the course of this year has added more than 2,500 new season-ticket holders for next season. He also said the team’s current renewal rate of 86 percent is a club record.

    “The [playoff] run here has clearly helped,” he said, “with the leverage of being a [season-ticket] member helping to get people their seats for the playoffs.”

    The Red Bulls averaged 19,657 fans for their 17 regular-season home games this year, up slightly from 2014. The club sold out the 25,189-seat Red Bull Arena for its first-round playoff match versus D.C. United last month, and the Nov. 29 semifinal match it will host versus Columbus is already sold out as well.

    Ratings this season on local broadcaster MSG nearly doubled, de Grandpre said. On the corporate side, the club this year relaxed its in-stadium marketing restrictions for partners, opening the door for more deals. Among those that signed on were Yanmar, Bayer Healthcare and Audi. De Grandpre said representatives from 94 current or potential corporate partners attended the club’s first playoff match, with a similar number expected for the coming Columbus match.

    “A lot of folks continue to realize the potential of this sport and our club,” he said.

    That pursuit of a naming-rights partner continues, as well. Team and stadium owner Red Bull GmbH has held those rights since the venue opened in 2010.

    “We’re still exploring the idea of perhaps bringing on a naming-rights partner, but we’re having great conversations on the topic that are ongoing now,” he said. “I’ve heard many say naming-rights deals typically take 24 to 36 months, and I’m a little optimistic we can get it done sooner if we choose to go that route.”

    Portland Timbers:
    Compared to the other three MLS semifinalists, it’s a bit harder for the Portland Timbers to quantify a playoff bump. The club has sold out every match at 22,000-seat Providence Park since the Timbers entered the league in 2011. Portland has a season-ticket waiting list that’s more than 12,000 people deep and has had a league-best 99 percent or better season-ticket renewal rate in each of its seasons.

    Majority owner and team CEO Merritt Paulson said the club’s standing leaguewide in terms of sponsorship revenue is strong, and the club continues to see good numbers for both its TV ratings and its digital metrics.

    “For us in the playoffs, it’s all about the team performance,” Paulson said. “You obviously have those incremental ticket sales and some other added benefits, and it’s obviously not something that we take for granted, but it’s not significantly material from a business perspective.”

    The opportunity that does exist, Paulson said, stems from a newly developing fan segment: an older demographic.

    “When you look at our market as a whole, typically like most MLS teams, we skew towards a younger audience,” he said. “In general, if you’re under 40 or a millennial, you’re more prone to be an avid Timbers fan. … [But] more and more of that older demographic [is] paying attention and starting to adopt our team, as well as maybe some folks who haven’t been as interested in soccer.”

    Paulson points to those fans as a means of growth.

    “This team’s relevancy in this market is perhaps unique across MLS, and we’re not worried about sellouts necessarily. However, the intangibles gained from increasing our relevance and our brand to those non-Timbers fans is immense,” he said. “I know that’s a tougher thing to measure, but I can’t overstate just how much I’m feeling that and seeing that.”

    FC Dallas:
    In a crowded Dallas sports market, FC Dallas executives are working to avoid a repeat of 2010.

    After the club made it to the championship in 2010 but lost, the team wasn’t able to capitalize on that on-field success and build a broad franchise base that’s taken hold long-term. Now, five years later — and following one of the more exciting finales to an MLS playoff match (a stunning penalty shot win against Seattle) — the team feels it is better positioned to make those inroads.

    “It’s very hard for a team to flip a switch and say, ‘We’re in the playoffs, and here we are,” said Jimmy Smith, the team’s chief financial officer. “In these last few years, we’ve put a number of things in motion to be more in tune with the market and so that we have a foundation so when there is that additional excitement, we can capture it.”

    Those steps have included development of both English and Spanish-language radio broadcasts. On TV, this club this year moved from a past split between Time Warner Cable SportsChannel and local outlet TXA 21 to having all non-nationally televised games on TXA 21 this year. That channel is available to all Dallas/Fort Worth cable subscribers in a basic cable package, while TWC is part of a premium sports package.

    The team also is marketing the upcoming National Soccer Hall of Fame that will be part of a newly constructed second level of the team’s Toyota Stadium, located above the south end zone and set to open in 2018. The team is already taking deposits for the new premium seats that will come from that stadium project.

    Smith said the club’s first playoff game this year was at capacity at 20,500-seat Toyota Stadium, with expectations to either meet or exceed that for the next game.

    FC Dallas averaged 16,244 fans a game during the regular season, down 5 percent from 2014 despite the team having one of the league’s best records. But Smith said this year’s ticket base included a new high-point for season-ticket sales, and the pace of sales for 2016 surpasses that — speaking to the deeper inroads the club is trying to make with North Texas sports fans.

    “We know this is a very competitive market, so we’re excited that in certain aspects we’ve become the focal point in the sports discussion,” Smith said. “Compared to 2010, this is at least three, four or five times bigger in terms of excitement, and is putting us in a position in 2016 where we’ll be way ahead of where we need to be, something that can sustain us for years to come.”

    Columbus Crew:
    In the 2014 MLS playoffs, the only bigger disappointment for the Columbus Crew than its loss to New England in the Eastern Conference semifinals was its attendance in the home leg of the series: a paltry 9,040 fans.

    Fast forward to this year, and the team has sold out its coming home game and is preparing for a record crowd of more than 21,000 fans.

    “When we closed 2014, we made it an overarching club goal to grow our playoff attendance,” said Crew President Andy Loughnane.

    The team started having playoff meetings internally as early as April to discuss what the best strategies would be. It developed new timetables to begin its ticket sales and discussed what pricing it should use. It even decided to allow fans to purchase playoff tickets as early as August, which Loughnane said made it the earliest among MLS clubs. In 2014, tickets did not go on sale until October.

    Columbus also rolled out a significant grassroots campaign across the city over the last few months, highlighting that it is not only the only professional team in Columbus to win a major professional sports championship, but also that it is the last major pro sports franchise in Ohio to win a championship, back in 2008. It also brought out that MLS Cup and presented it at more events throughout this year, something Loughnane said the club felt it wasn’t leveraging enough.

    At the same time, the club this year saw its sponsorship revenue increase 45 percent compared to 2014. The team’s naming-rights deal with Mapfre Insurance and its deal with EAS Sports Nutrition for naming rights of its training facility were substantial drivers.

    Merchandise sales were up double digits, fueled by the Crew’s rebrand late last year. Food and beverage per caps also were up, by 24 percent. Columbus switched from Sodexo to Levy Restaurants for stadium service prior to start of the season and introduced a number of more locally focused concession options at the venue throughout 2015.

    The overall strategy that the team has laid out has helped the Crew gain more than 1,000 new season-ticket holders from last year, and expectations are that the team will surpass that number of new signings for 2016.

    But, Loughnane said, the Crew isn’t done yet.

    “We’re certainly proud of our accomplishments, but collectively we know we have a long way to go before we’re satisfied with our performance,” he said.

    Tags: On the Ground, Franchises
  • Sports Business Wake-Up: Day 3

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    We had a strong two days at the 2015 Momentum Sports Marketing Symposium in New York. Many thanks to all of the speakers, panelists, exhibitors and attendees who made this year’s event a success. Probably the biggest theme over the two days: Dealing with change, both the kind that happens to you and the kind that you make happen.

    MIXING IT UP: We really had no idea what to expect from our inaugural Fan Engagement pitch competition, but we thought it might be fun. It was, and then some. Five companies gave whirlwind 4-minute pitches to the audience and a panel of judges, showcasing their technology intended to improve fan engagement and the customer experience. With Exec Editor Abe Madkour acting as host to keep the program moving, each contestant answered questions from our four judges — Steve Horowitz of Inner Circle Sports, Omid Farhang of Momentum Worldwide, Kathy Carter of Soccer United Marketing and David Abrutyn of Bruin Sports Capital. Then the contestants gave a last-ditch, 15-second pitch while the judges compared scorecards and the audience voted. It all led up to that excruciating moment when the results were announced. And this moment was more excruciating than most. Farhang, who had the task of announcing the judges’ verdict, said: “The winner, by a hair, is Jason Brenner [of Verve].” Brenner yelled “Yes!” Fellow judge Carter said, “Wrong.” And then Farhang, in horror: “Did I screw it up?” Abrutyn: “You screwed it up!” The audience erupted, Brenner threw up his hands, and Madkour said, “Can we get some new judges? Some who know math?” The actual winner on the judges’ scorecards was Kirk Berridge of Fan Media Network. But, in a bit of poetic justice, Brenner did win the audience vote. The whole experience gave us a lot to talk about, laugh about and learn from. Read more about it in today’s Daily.

    UNPLUGGED: One of the most talked-about discussions featured the prescient and ever-quotable John Lewicki, head of Global Alliances for McDonald’s, who deftly used his time on stage to bemoan the lack of marketing creativity and flexibility at the team level, and to share his thoughts on exclusivity, the state of reform at FIFA and the preparations around Rio for the Summer Games. Gillette’s Global Director Sports Marketing Greg Via seconded Lewicki’s frustration with certain partnerships and talked about recently being called by two different properties whose introduction was, “We’ll offer rights-of-first-refusal on this deal, but we are talking to your competitor.” To which he said, “Go ahead. Just sell it to them.” Via couldn’t explain the flawed approach except to suggest that teams are under more sales pressure than ever.

    MARKETING CLASS IN SESSION: Watching Momentum CEO Chris Weil interview Verizon Exec VP/CMO Diego Scotti offered a good, inside look at marketing discipline from two industry veterans. They talked approaches, strategies and concepts, but also shared a sense of humor. At one time, when talking about Verizon’s NFL sponsorship activation, the smooth Argentine-native Scotti looked at Weil and said, “I don’t want to give you too much credit because the fees will go up. It’s always about the fees.” Weil, laughing, replied, “I can’t believe we’re having a fee discussion in front of these people.” After going over some of Verizon’s activation, Weil deadpanned, “The work is great. I don’t know who did it for you!”

    REACHING MILLENNIALS: “I think millennials are the first generation who understand that they don’t own a brand, but that they want to have a huge role in how that brand is portrayed,” said Bob Ruhland, vice president of marketing for Buffalo Wild Wings, during a discussion about the new ways that fans can participate in creating content. Johnny Volk, head of social media for StubHub, added, “Fans don’t want to be talked to, they want to be talked with.” The panel took a look at some of the success stories from brands that have tried to become a part of the social fabric. Volk summarized with this: “Trending topics are like a party. Is your brand invited to the conversation? If they are, then yes, participate and be on pulse.” More in today’s SBD.

    LEARNING FROM AN EXPERT: Any panelist or speaker who wants to know how to engage an audience could learn from Amex VP Deborah Curtis, who was the subject of a featured interview conducted by Momentum’s Heather Salkin. In a wide-ranging interview that covered everything from virtual reality to Taylor Swift, Curtis not only gave expert opinions and analysis, but included the audience in the answer to every question, making eye contact, giving insightful and entertaining answers and allowing everyone in the room feel as though she was talking directly to them.

    — Scotti: “We marketers create a lot of junk, because a lot of the work we do is just not good.”
    — Ruhland: “I think what we’re going to see is that advertisers and marketers will become more transparent when collecting content, and more genuine. The biggest change I’ve seen is fans can smell bullshit a mile away.”
    — Lewicki, on E-Sports: “I understand it’s a game and it’s technology, but truly you’re disparaging athletes, to be honest with you, if you’re saying that this is a sport. This is entertainment content, it’s absolutely huge, it’s something we all have to watch as brands. But from a pure sports standpoint, we get involved in it, but we struggle to say that it’s actually a sport.”

    SOCIAL ANIMALS: There was lots of social action around the conference. You can view the tweet stream, which includes quotes from many of our panelists, on Twitter by searching the hashtag #sbjsms. Among the tweets we liked:
    @analevanko: Only a sports conference would include a competition face off, great idea.
    @arinsegal: The results of the #SBJSMS shark tank are similar to the Miami game...
    @freereid: Enjoying the #Momentum and #AMEX panel with Deb Curtis at #SBJSMS. Agree about starting with fan to push into new and old tech.
    @IMRESports: Good insight on using new technology: Start w/ the fan in mind. Pick the right moments. Don't just do technology for technology sake
    @CraigStacey1: You know you are at a great conference when they play THE POLICE and ROXY MUSIC during the breaks.
    @MirumSports: Solid day two wrapping up at #SBJSMS. Insightful conference with incredible content value, hospitality & organization by @sbjsbd

    And a special thanks to some of the people who helped keep the conversation going: @Chuck_Cain, @cannonjw, @freereid and @ottogrl.

    FUN WITH OUR SPONSORS: Yesterday we mentioned some of the giveaways offered by sponsors and exhibitors. Here’s a quick follow-up:
    — — Lisa Promise of DraftKings was the winner of an Apple Watch given away by Cendyn Arcaneo.
    — — The winner of Rentrak’s Apple Watch giveaway was Ceo Wimmer of the UFC.
    — — Omnigon will name its winner later for the free month of its Bracket Pro application.
    — — And StubHub has been contacting, via Twitter, the winners of $100 gift certificates from among those who tweeted their favorite sports moments of 2015 with the hashtag #sbjsms.

    And considering that we are all sports fans here, we took a look at the moments that our attendees tweeted. Here are a few we liked:
    @mjfoxy12: Buckeyes National championship victory
    @hamswims: Best sports moment of 2015? The @BlueJays playoff chase/run
    @Justin_Pipes: Favorite sports moment when Mike Conley came back in the #NBAPlayoffs after breaking his face
    @ottogrl: My favorite sports memory this year was seeing the @mets at the #worldseries in both KC and Queens!
    @Chuck_Cain: Fav sports experience 2015-my son, dad & me at the @ProFootballHOF for @JeromeBettis36 induction
    @PetersonDerek: favorite sports memory of 2015? Easy. @royals #TakeTheCrown. … Hopefully they #takethenextcrown too.

    NEXT ON THE CALENDAR: Our Daytona Rising/NASCAR Motorsports Marketing Forum will be held in just a few weeks in Las Vegas. You can check out the agenda and speaker roster, or register for the conference, by clicking HERE. Then we will be back in New York for some holiday cheer and our last event of the year: the Intercollegiate Athletics Forum.

    Tags: ING, Marketing Symposium, ATT, CES, GE, Ally, Audi, Soccer, SEC, Media, Ugg, FIFA, Gillette
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