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Volume 24 No. 117

Events and Attractions

The second day of the ’13 IMG World Congress of Sports began with several pro team owners talking about the prospect of building businesses in, around and out of sports. The owners discussed one of the major themes at the conference this year -- the attempt to make the in-game experience more valuable for fans than the at-home experience. Lightning Owner JEFF VINIK stressed the community aspect of being at a live event needs to be highlighted. He said, “It is our job to make the presentation of our product on the ice for the fans to make them want to go there and be part of this community. It’s a very special bond with other people that they’re not going to get at home. … That experience is not replaceable at home.” Cubs Chair TOM RICKETTS added, “Nothing’s going to replace being at the live event. We have to make sure from the moment that person gets off the L or parks their car that that whole day was special.” But Ricketts noted one challenge the Cubs face is making sure there is “more for the whole family” to do at and around Wrigley Field. He said, “One of the things we’ve identified is our facilities and our neighborhood have done a lot (for) people that are coming with a group of friends and less with people coming with their children.” Bruins Owner JEREMY JACOBS noted most young fans spend a lot of time “looking down at their phone texting,” so teams need to service them by increasing the in-stadium wireless availability. Jacobs: “You have to take advantage of that. If you don’t, you’re missing a big part of your market.”

LABOR CERTAINTY: All four of the major pro team sports have signed a new CBA in the last two years, and Jacobs noted that is one major problem that has been fixed. Jacobs, who was considered one of the main hard-liners during the recent NHL lockout, said, “We’ve got certainty, an eight-to-10-year certainty, and that means a lot to your fans and your sponsors. So I think we’ll build our business with this agreement. … The greatest thing we’ve done is we’ve fixed it for the long term.” 76ers investor MICHAEL RUBIN said, “The businesses over the past decade, many of them have been pretty bad businesses. But with better CBAs, television going the right way … I’ve seen pretty bad businesses grow out of it and actually become much better businesses.”

MONEY WELL SPENT? The question was asked whether buying sports teams was still a good investment. Vinik noted when he bought the Lightning three years ago, he “took a franchise that had a lot of upside opportunities if you could get everything right.” Vinik: “That includes making the building better, improving the product on the ice, treating our fans better, the parking situation, food and beverage, etc.” But he noted it “takes a long time to turn all this around and get it right.” After initially believing he and his people could change things in six months, he said, “We’re three years into it right now and we probably have another year or two to go.”

-- Ricketts, on what surprised him when he took over the Cubs: “There are lots of little learning curves. Chicago politics is one.”

-- Vinik: “Sports are in danger of the have and the have-nots becoming more separated over time.”

A panel discussion yesterday at the '13 World Congress of Sports featured this year’s “Champions of Sports Business” class and was filled with almost an hour of riveting, touching and funny anecdotes, many which we will bring to you in greater depth after the '13 IMG World Congress of Sports. One of the many highlights was an exchange between Magic Senior VP PAT WILLIAMS and former YankeeNets CEO HARVEY SCHILLER. When Schiller cited GEORGE STEINBRENNER and TED TURNER as two of his mentors, but then moved on to another topic, Williams said, “Harvey, you’ve got to tell us more.” Schiller, a retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General, grimaced and said, “I’d rather tell you about my year in Vietnam.” But Schiller then went on to explain that he learned a lot from Steinbrenner and Turner, and had the greatest respect for both men and their accomplishments. He shared a story about a heated argument he had with Steinbrenner after he felt the Yankees owner misled him with some information during the brief era of the Yankees-Nets-Devils partnership. “I called George and we argued…a lot,” said Schiller. “It got pretty nasty.” Schiller said that Steinbrenner hung up on him, or so he thought. So he called Steinbrenner back. “When I did,” Schiller said, “I heard George’s assistant say, ‘Mr. Steinbrenner, Harvey’s on the phone, but you can’t use that phone because you ripped it out of the wall.'”

Financial fair play was the hot topic in this morning’s soccer panel, “The Globalization of the Beautiful Game: Building Brands Beyond Borders” at the ’13 IMG World Congress of Sports. Rules adopted by UEFA and proposed in the EPL have been created in Europe with the purpose of moderating team spending. The panelists debated the topic, but were primarily in support of the initiatives.

NOT LOOKING TO LOSE: “We view this as a business, not as a loss leader,” said AS Roma CEO ITALO ZANZI. “All of the things that the rules embrace, we embrace. As new owners of an international franchise, frankly, the new rules are welcomed. We want to win championships and make money.” Liverpool FC Managing Dir IAN AYRE agreed, but expressed some concerns.“Financial fair play is less about losses and more about spending within your means,” Ayre said. “In Liverpool, we generate a lot of revenue and, of course, that should be put back into your teams. The nucleus of financial fair play is riddled with difficulties. UEFA has a lot of work to do.” MLS Commissioner DON GARBER said financial fair play throughout the world is important as MLS strives to reach its goal of being one of the world’s top soccer leagues by ‘22. “For us to achieve our goal, we need normalcy around the world,” Garber said. “What’s going on now is abnormal.” Two-time Women’s World Cup winner and current ESPN analyst JULIE FOUDY wondered, “But how do you get talent? You have to pay the money. But more than half the teams in Europe are losing money. It’s imperative that something is done about it.” SEAMUS O’BRIEN, Chair of the re-born N.Y. Cosmos, who will begin play in the NASL in August, was optimistic about the game’s financial growth in the U.S. “The good thing is, talent is transportable,” said O’Brien. “The U.S. has the greatest economy in the world. The audience will pay to watch talent, and the talent will go to where the dollars are. We’ve got to raise our game on and off the pitch to be able to compete.”

Sports and entertainment have always been linked, but the two industries are becoming increasingly intertwined. Coca-Cola’s activation around this weekend’s Final Four is a prime example. The soft drink company is bringing several top musical acts, including MUSE, LUDACRIS and MACKLEMORE, to Atlanta for a concert at Centennial Park. Coca-Cola Senior VP/Sports & Entertainment Marketing Partnerships SHARON BYERS said, “You want to make sure that you’re picking artists that are relevant for the brand -- in this case Coke Zero -- that merge fans interested in that music and also in basketball. Finding that merger in your consumer base is critically important.” XIX Entertainment Senior Exec TOM SHINE said the difficulty companies face is “getting the right people for the right product.” He referenced a recent Mercedes-Benz ad featuring musician USHER and supermodel KATE UPTON as a good example of using celebrities in the proper setting and said, “It has to look like it fits together. You can’t just take assets and drop them in an ad.”

IF IT'S IN THE GAME: EA Sports Exec VP ANDREW WILSON noted the emergence of social media such as Twitter has allowed both sports personalities and entertainment stars to “interact together on a minute-to-minute, hour-by-hour basis.” EA put rapper SNOOP DOGG in a commercial for its “FIFA” videogame franchise last year, and Wilson noted the appearance added to the authenticity of the game “because before we had a relationship, he was tweeting about ‘FIFA.’” Additionally, actor PAUL RUDD starred with former Ravens LB RAY LEWIS in a series of ads for “Madden NFL 13” in part because he actively plays the game. Wilson: “Not only did he want to be involved in the campaign, he wanted to bring his whole writing crew to work on the campaign.” He added, “What we found is the level of passion out there that’s been created by social media and Twitter is actually bringing these two groups together very, very naturally.”

-- Mondelez Int’l Senior Dir of U.S. Consumer Engagement & Marketing Services STEPHEN CHRISS, on keeping its sports and entertainment properties separate: “My budget might not be as deep where I can begin to bring things together, so I have to be laser focused.”

-- JPMorgan Chase Head of Sports & Entertainment Marketing STEVE PAMON: “If you’re a 13-year-old girl that lives in Queens, you might not care about the Knicks or the Rangers. But if ONE DIRECTION shows up for Jingle Ball, you’re there early.”

-- Shine, on activation mistakes: “I don’t think there’s a bigger fault in all of marketing than people that buy something, put their name on something, then walk away from it.”

Pepsi VP/Consumer Engagement ADAM HARTER yesterday led a presentation at the ’13 IMG World Congress of Sports called “How Pepsi Engages Consumers with Sports, Music & Pop Culture.” Harter focused on three NFL-related initiatives that married sports stars with pop stars.

-- On its Pepsi-NFL Anthems program: “The local pride around these teams is just amazing. We wanted to make sure to tap into that at every occasion. What inspired us around this program is that these stars became star struck themselves.”

-- On its “Showdown” ad campaign with Saints QB DREW BREES and pop act ONE DIRECTION: “We had to find creative that was relevant to 'X Factor' and the NFL viewers. One Direction and Drew Brees -- I’ve never seen someone have so much fun at being absolutely awful at something as Drew Brees on this shoot.”

-- On its Super Bowl halftime show: “Cutting through the clutter is so difficult. We wanted to use the 30-second spot we had to amplify this 12-minute activation known as the Super Bowl Halftime show.”