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Volume 24 No. 157

People and Pop Culture

ESPN is the most innovative company in sports, according to Chuck Salter of FAST COMPANY, which ranked the top 10 as part of its “50 Most Innovative Companies” list. ESPN ranked as the 16th most innovative company on the overall list, which was topped by Apple (1), Twitter (2) and Facebook (3). The chart below shows FAST COMPANY’s 10 most innovative companies in sports (, 3/14).


ESPN"For integrating new tech like a startup. … The brilliance of ESPN is that it constantly finds new and richer ways to experience and understand sports on all those platforms."
Turner Sports"For growing like a new tech startup. Turner's much better known for its TV coverage, but it dazzles online, operating the second most-visited network of sports websites, including the official sites for the NBA, PGA, and NASCAR."
Livestrong"For making an athlete's foundation a major force in cancer. Through social media, Livestrong reaches about 3 million people a year, a model for bigger and more established health-care stalwarts."
Fenway Sports Group"For its creativity as a sports owner. … FSG now boasts the most impressive and eclectic reach of any sports owner."
Qcue"For using dynamic-pricing to fill stadiums. Airlines adjust fares to account for ticket demand and ultimately to maximize ticket revenue. Now Austin-based Qcue is enabling sports teams to do the same."
Thunder"For proving that market size doesn't matter. … The franchise relocated in 2008 to Oklahoma City, the NBA's smallest market and third smallest TV market. It ranks in the top 15 in overall attendance and is one of the most profitable small-market teams in any sport."
Athletes' Performance"For creating the elite workout facility. The company draws clientele from pro sports as well as the World Cup and the Olympics by offering more than customized training and cutting-edge equipment."
Bloomberg Sports"For crunching the numbers differently. Targeting teams and fans hungry for in-depth statistical analysis, Bloomberg last year launched online tools in baseball and football that capitalize on its expertise in data evaluation and visualization."
Eagles"For generating renewable energy to power its stadium. When the Eagles start the season at Lincoln Financial Field this fall, they'll be playing the world's greenest major sports facility."
Bite Tech"For creating a mouthpiece with an edge. … Its device aligns the jaw to increase oxygen intake, which boosts muscles, and reduces the release of stress hormones that cause fatigue."


THE DAILY each Friday offers our take on the performances over the past week of people and entities in sports business. Here are this week's newsmakers:

WIN: UFC -- The Zuffa-owned outfit consolidates the MMA market in a big way with the purchase of rival promotion Strikeforce. The buyout gives UFC dominance in MMA and should help keep fighters' salaries from escalating quickly. While the two organizations will remain separate for now, in time the new "super company" will be able to gain more TV exposure (domestic and abroad) without killing PPV business.

LOSE: NCAA MEN'S FIRST FOUR -- The NCAA's first time having four "First Round" games on the Tuesday and Wednesday night before the main tournament starts is described as a "buzzkill," "boring," "forgettable" and "irrelevant." The telecasts on truTV draw marginal ratings and the new format just seems to confuse writers, teams and fans as to what round the tournament is playing now. Opening reviews show the NCAA may want to rethink the approach or let it set in and allow fans to get used to it.

DRAW: "FAB FIVE" -- The ESPN film on the Univ. of Michigan's basketball recruiting class from '91 marks the net's highest-rated and most-viewed documentary ever and gets great reviews from critics. But the doc does little to better the images of CHRIS WEBBER, who did not participate in the film, and JALEN ROSE, who served as a producer on the film and made some provocative remarks about Duke and its players. Rose gets an emotional rebuke from GRANT HILL in the N.Y. Times over the comments, which Rose later says were only his thoughts as a 17-year-old.

The Nets have hired ANDREW SCHWARTZ as VP/Partnership Sales and named JOSH PRUSS VP/Partnership Marketing. Schwartz joins the Nets on Monday. Both execs will report to Nets Senior VP/Partnership, Sales & Marketing CHRIS BRAHE. Schwartz had worked as Sirius XM Radio Sports Marketing Dir in N.Y. for the past three years. Pruss has worked for the Nets since '07 and most recently was the team’s Managing Dir of Marketing (John Lombardo, SportsBusiness Journal)....Chicagoland Speedway has tabbed Alli Sports Manager of Communications NICOLE MANCUSO MEAGHER to head up its PR and communications initiatives for the track and NASCAR races (THE DAILY)....Sources said that the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday "laid off several newsroom employees," including marketing reporter LEWIS LAZARE (, 3/17)....GMR Marketing has hired Sports Media Challenge analyst JACKIE ADKINS as Account Coordinator on the Lowe's account (THE DAILY). 

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Asian Football Confederation President MOHAMMED BIN HAMMAM "has launched his campaign to unseat SEPP BLATTER as FIFA president by promising to double the funding every national association receives from the governing body." Bin Hammam said that he "would offer FIFA's 208 members an annual grant of $500,000 each, double the $250,000 they currently receive" (, 3/18). Hammam has "promised to build his campaign on goalline technology and increased transparency." He said, "The view that FIFA is not transparent ... it hurts, you know?" (, 3/18).

NAMES: MICHAEL DREW SWEENY, the former GM for Centerplate's Denver operation, "pleaded guilty to Class 3 felony theft and appeared in court Thursday for sentencing" after he was found to have "embezzled more than $300,000" from the concessionaire (DENVER POST, 3/18)....Actor DAMON WAYANS has "finalized a deal to headline" the CBS comedy pilot inspired by COLIN COWHERD. The ESPN personality is a producer of the TV show, based roughly on his radio show (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 3/18)....A jury on Thursday "ruled in favor" of Cavaliers Owner DAN GILBERT and his Quicken Loans in a case over the company's overtime pay policy. The ruling means Quicken "will not be forced to pay the nearly 350 plaintiffs an additional half-time for their hours worked during their time at Quicken, avoiding" an estimated $4-30M in damages (, 3/17)....Colts Owner JIM IRSAY Monday night attended Midwest Fashion Week's event at Lucas Oil Stadium, "Monday Night Fashion: Where Sports and Fashion Collide." Irsay, on hand with daughters CASEY and KALEN, "donated $25,000 to Down Syndrome Indiana" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/17)....Magic Dir of Player Development ADONAL FOYLE celebrated his 36th birthday last week by "holding a pair of fundraisers to benefit the Kerosene Lamp Foundation, the nonprofit he created to help children" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/18)....Warriors G STEPHEN CURRY has signed on as a national spokesperson for ThanksUSA, an organization that provides money in scholarship aid to America's military families (THE DAILY).