2011 Timeline: The Year In Review
■ The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins play in front of 68,111 fans in the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Heinz Field.
■ NBC averages a 13.0 final Nielsen rating and 21.8 million viewers for its 18 NFL telecasts this season, marking the network’s best audience figures since it began airing “Sunday Night Football” five seasons ago. That was good enough to make “SNF” the first sports series to be the most-watched TV show in prime time.
■ MasterCard signs its first naming-rights deal for an arena, the former Wukesong Indoor Stadium in Beijing. The five-year deal has a value of more than $4 million annually.
■ Altitude Sports & Entertainment announces that it has acquired a 50 percent interest in World Fishing Network USA from Insight Sports.
■ ESPN averages a 15.3 U.S. rating and 27.3 million viewers for the Auburn-Oregon BCS national championship game, making it the highest-rated and most-viewed program in the history of cable television.
■ General Motors and NBC Universal announce a new media partnership tied to NBC’s U.S. coverage of the 2012 London Games. The deal provides GM with exclusive domestic automotive advertising rights during the Olympics.
|Matthew Knight Arena
■ The University of Oregon opens its $227 million, 12,364-seat Matthew Knight Arena.
■ Churchill Downs and Yum! Brands announce a five-year extension of their deal for presenting sponsorship of the Kentucky Derby.
■ The USTA and CBS reach an agreement in principle for the U.S. Open to remain on CBS through 2014.
■ The University of Texas announces a 20-year, $300 million deal with ESPN to create the Longhorn Network.
■ The Bowl Championship Series will distribute more than $174 million from its five bowl games, an increase of 22 percent over what was paid out in 2010.
■ NASCAR unveils a simplified points system for all three of its top series, which officials hope enables fans to calculate easily what drivers’ results mean for season standings.
■ Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick signs a two-year deal with Unequal Technologies, his first paid endorsement contract since his release from prison in May 2009.
■ AEG announces it has signed Farmers Insurance to a 30-year, $600 million naming-rights deal for a proposed football stadium in downtown Los Angeles.
■ Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano announces the sale of the team to East Resources President and CEO Terry Pegula.
■ AEG announces it is forming a joint ticketing venture with Outbox Technology and Cirque de Soleil that will create a company called Outbox Enterprises.
■ Super Bowl XLV, between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers and shown on Fox, becomes the most-watched program in television history, pulling in 111 million viewers.
■ Platinum Equity Chairman and CEO Tom Gores strikes a tentative deal to buy the Detroit Pistons from Karen Davidson. The deal, which includes the Palace of Auburn Hills, is valued at $420 million.
■ Under Armour signs former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton to a shoe and apparel deal that sources indicate will be the largest deal ever given to an incoming NFL rookie. Sources said the deal would top the $1 million a year that Adidas gave Reggie Bush in 2006.
■ Time Warner Cable signs a 20-year rights deal with the Los Angeles Lakers that will lead to the creation of two new regional sports networks in the Los Angeles market in 2012.
■ NASCAR signs a licensing agreement with Wal-Mart that will enable the world’s largest retailer to source apparel, home goods and other products bearing NASCAR imagery and marks. The deal is Wal-Mart’s first licensing agreement with a major sports property.
|NBC runs the table on the Triple Crown.
■ NBC Sports Group announces it will own the rights to all three legs of horse racing’s Triple Crown for the first time since 2005.
■ The NHL signs MillerCoors in the U.S. and Molson Coors in Canada as its newest corporate sponsor in a mammoth seven-year deal across North America that is the league’s most financially lucrative sponsorship ever. Labatt Breweries of Canada later claims that it had already struck a deal with the NHL to renew sponsorship rights in Canada through 2014.
■ Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume announces a naming-rights and management deal with Quebecor to invest in the city’s proposed $400 million (Canadian) NHL-ready arena. Quebecor will invest between $110 million and $200 million (Canadian) in the project.
■ Under Armour and Tottenham Hotspur announce a five-year kit supply agreement, the company’s first with an English Premier League club.
■ The Livestrong cancer foundation and MLS Sporting Kansas City agree to a unique six-year naming-rights deal for the club’s new stadium. Sporting KC will donate a percentage of all sales at Livestrong Sporting Park to the foundation, which will not pay a fee to the club.
■ NFL team owners lock out the league’s players, shutting down professional football for the first time in 24 years.
|UFC buys rival promoter Strikeforce.
■ UFC parent company Zuffa LLC purchases rival mixed martial arts promoter Strikeforce, though they will continue to operate as separate entities. Sources value the deal in the $30 million to $60 million range.
■ The Big 12 is nearing a cable agreement with Fox that will more than triple the conference’s revenue over its current contract. Sources say the deal will pay the conference more than $60 million a year.
■ The Portland Timbers and Oregon-based window and door manufacturer Jeld-Wen announce a naming-rights partnership for the MLS club’s stadium, now known as Jeld-Wen Field.
■ Anheuser-Busch signs a four-year extension to its founding partnership with MLS, but for the first time the beermaker has given up exclusive local rights to MLS teams. Sources value the deal at more than $10 million.
|AEG land a major project in Moscow.
■ AEG is nearing a deal to develop a massive $1.5 billion sports and entertainment complex in Moscow.
■ A record 12 MLB teams have payrolls of more than $100 million at the start of the 2011 season, with the New York Yankees continuing to lead all other teams.
■ The Florida Panthers sell the naming rights to the ice floor at their arena to automaker Lexus, the first deal of its kind in the NHL and only the second one in major league sports.
|LeBron James aligns with Fenway Sports Group.
■ LeBron James and his marketing outfit, LRMR Marketing & Branding, are now part of the Fenway Sports Group portfolio following the creation of a new broad-based pact. FSG’s Fenway Sports Management becomes the exclusive global representative for LRMR to secure marketing and sponsorship deals for James.
■ English Premier League club Arsenal announces it has agreed to be taken over by investor Stan Kroenke after he bought out two of his fellow club directors. The takeover values the club at around $1.2 billion.
■ The USOC extends its sponsorship deal with Nike, meaning American athletes will wear the swoosh on the medal stand through the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
■ The Formula One track in Austin will be the host of not one, but two huge international motor races, and the project, now pegged with a $400 million price tag, will include a conference center, a 22-story signature tower and possibly a hotel.
■ NBC and Versus sign a 10-year, $2 billion deal to renew the NHL’s TV rights.
■ MLB Commissioner Bud Selig strips Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt of financial control of the club, saying he would appoint a trustee to oversee the team’s business affairs. Two months later, the Dodgers would file for bankruptcy protection, and McCourt would later agree to a court-supervised sale of the team.
|Laurel Richie hired to run the WNBA.
■ The WNBA hires Laurel Richie as its new president. Richie had been senior vice president and CMO for the Girl Scouts of the USA since 2008.
■ English Premier Club Liverpool FC lands the biggest kit deal in the history of the league, securing a $41.3 million-a-year contract with Warrior Sports.
■ The stadium that houses both the Oakland A’s and Raiders will become O.co Coliseum following a naming-rights deal with Overstock.com. Sources say the deal is for six years at just under $2 million per year.
■ UFC 129 at Rogers Centre in Toronto earns a record gate of $11.5 million (Canadian) and more than 55,000 fans, the largest crowd in UFC history.
■ The Pac-10 Conference agrees to a massive media rights deal with ESPN and Fox that is worth $3 billion over 12 years, which averages out to $250 million per year.
■ The Green Bay Packers say they hope to begin construction on an expansion of the south end-zone area at historic Lambeau Field after next year’s Super Bowl in February. The plan calls for adding as many as 7,500 seats.
■ The Minnesota Vikings and Ramsey County (Minn.) announce an agreement to build a $1 billion football stadium with a retractable roof in Arden Hills. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf attends the announcement, a day after no team officials participated in Minneapolis’ unveiling of a plan for a stadium on the current Metrodome site.
|The Fiesta Bowl stays in the BCS.
■ A special BCS committee decides that the Fiesta Bowl will remain in the coveted Bowl Championship Series but must pay a $1 million fine for financial irregularities and for allowing employees to make potentially illegal campaign contributions.
■ Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane announces the sale of the franchise to Houston businessman Jim Crane. MLB owners would approve the $610 million deal in November.
■ ESPN announces plans to hold open bidding for four international X Games events and two domestic events beginning in 2013.
■ NBC Sports Group Chairman Dick Ebersol resigns abruptly after negotiations on a four-year contract collapse.
■ True North Sports & Entertainment Chairman Mark Chipman formally announces the group’s purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers and its intent to move the team to Winnipeg. Sources value the sale at $170 million.
■ NBC secures the rights to four Olympic Games, from 2014-2020, with a whopping $4.38 billion bid. NBC’s bid is nearly $1 billion higher than the $3.4 billion bid Fox presented.
■ Comcast-Spectacor is in talks to sell the Philadelphia 76ers to a group led by Joshua Harris, senior managing director of New York-based Apollo Global Management. The league would approve the $280 million deal in October.
■ Sporting Kansas City plays its first game at Livestrong Sporting Park in front of a sold-out crowd of 19,925.
■ Reebok founder Paul Fireman jumps back into the running-shoe business, with an investment of close to $20 million in a Colorado sneaker maker that aims to capitalize on the industry’s biggest innovation in decades: shoes that mimic barefoot running.
■ The ATP announces that Executive Chairman and President Adam Helfant will step down from his position when his three-year contract expires at the end of the year.
■ NBC earns a 4.8 final Nielsen rating and 8.54 million viewers for the Boston Bruins-Vancouver Canucks Stanley Cup Final Game 7, marking the highest-rated NHL game in 37 years and most-viewed game in 38 years.
■ NBC Universal bought back a stake in the Dew Tour that it sold to MTV in 2008 in a deal that values the property and its assets at $40 million to $60 million.
|New Meadowlands lands a big partner.
■ MetLife is in advanced discussions with New Meadowlands Stadium to upgrade its corner sponsorship to a full naming-rights deal. A formal deal would be announced in August that covers 25 years and is worth an average of $17 million to $20 million a year.
■ GE announces it has extended its IOC TOP sponsorship through 2020 in a four-Olympic Games deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Specific terms were not announced, but TOP sponsorships usually go for up to $100 million for four years.
■ The USOC announces it does not plan to put forward a bid for the 2020 Olympics.
■ Tiger Woods signs a sponsorship deal with Japanese pain relief brand Vantelin Kowa, his first endorsement deal since the scandal surrounding his personal life led to him being dropped by numerous brands.
■ The NBA officially institutes a lockout after owners are unable to reach a new labor deal with players. The move bars players from using any team practice facilities and arenas or having any other contact with teams.
■ The New York Times Co. sells more than half of its 17 percent stake in the holding company of the Boston Red Sox to three separate buyers for $117 million in cash.
|ESPN acquires Wimbledon rights.
■ ESPN formally announces that it has acquired exclusive U.S. media rights to live action from Wimbledon in a 12-year agreement with the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, effective next year. The deal, which is worth around $480 million, ends NBC’s 43-year association with the event.
■ Pyeongchang, South Korea, is selected to host the 2018 Olympic Games.
■ English Premier League club Manchester City announces a naming-rights deal with Etihad Airways. Sources estimate the deal is worth between $16 million and $24 million annually.
■ The U.S. women fall to Japan in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final.
■ The NFL and NFLPA come to an agreement on terms of a new labor deal, clearing the way for players to report to training camp and prepare to start the upcoming season on time.
■ The Pac-12 Conference announces the creation of not just one national channel, but six additional regional channels as well that will focus on the largest areas represented in the conference’s new alignment.
■ Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials sign a deal making Crown Royal the title sponsor of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Brickyard 400 beginning next year. The pact is financially bigger than any other current NASCAR title sponsorship.
■ Versus officially will turn into the NBC Sports Network on Jan. 2.
■ Nassau County residents reject a plan to borrow up to $400 million for a new arena for the New York Islanders and a minor league ballpark.
■ Alex Meruelo, founder and chairman of Los Angeles-based The Meruelo Group, reaches an agreement to buy a majority ownership stake in the Atlanta Hawks. However, the deal would later fall through.
|MLS games moving to NBC.
■ MLS signs a three-year deal with NBC that will see regular-season MLS games return to English-language broadcast television for the first time since 2008. Sources say the deal is worth $10 million per year.
■ The Izod IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway agree to a six-year extension of their broadcast rights agreement with ESPN/ABC. Financial terms of the agreement were not available, though sources said it marks an increase over the $6 million a year ESPN/ABC currently pays for the same rights.
■ The University of North Texas announces that campus networking firm Apogee is the naming-rights partner for the school’s new $79 million football stadium, in a 20-year deal that averages around $1 million a year.
■ ESPN plans to launch up to a dozen college-specific websites by the end of the year that will focus on high-school recruiting.
■ Fox agrees to a deal with the UFC that will see the broadcast channel air as many as four mixed martial arts events per year. The multiyear deal marks the first time the UFC will have consistent air time on a broadcast network.
|Broncos sign Sports Authority.
■ The Denver Broncos and the Metropolitan Football Stadium District approve a tentative deal with Sports Authority for naming rights to the team’s stadium. Sports Authority will pay an average of $6 million a year.
■ The WNBA and Boost Mobile announce a multiyear marketing partnership making the wireless phone provider the WNBA’s first leaguewide marquee partner. The Boost Mobile logo will appear on the front of game jerseys for 10 of the WNBA’s 12 teams.
■ Danica Patrick says she will move to NASCAR full time in the 2012 season, driving in the Nationwide Series.
■ MillerCoors extends its reach into college sports by striking deals with 23 schools, including blue-chippers such as Arizona State, California, Clemson, Colorado, Penn State and Washington.
■ The Longhorn Network debuts to approximately 20,000 households as the upstart network continues to try to secure carriage deals.
■ UPS reaches an agreement with close to 70 schools and a handful of conferences that gives it promotional rights from coast to coast. Sources value the deal at between $20 million and $25 million annually.
■ Texas A&M notifies the Big 12 that the university will leave the conference effective June 30, 2012, and petition to join the SEC.
■ The PGA Tour announces a new nine-year TV agreement with CBS and NBC through 2021.
■ Procter & Gamble signs Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps to a seven-figure endorsement deal for its Head & Shoulders shampoo. Phelps is signed through next year’s Summer Games in London.
■ News spreads that the NBA earlier this summer quietly signed Sprint Nextel to a new four-year sponsorship deal. Sources said that the $45 million rights fee paid by Sprint was one of the largest ever collected by the league.
■ The NFL announces the renewal of its partnership with PepsiCo with a new agreement that will take effect in 2012. Sources said the NFL will receive between $15 million and $20 million a year for each PepsiCo brand.
■ ESPN and the NFL sign an eight-year extension to their media rights agreement that is worth $1.9 billion a year, a 63 percent increase over the average price of the current deal.
■ Major League Soccer negotiates to sell an equity stake in its media and marketing business, Soccer United Marketing, to Providence Equity Partners. Sources say Providence is interested in obtaining up to a 25 percent stake in SUM for $125 million to $150 million.
|ACC adding Syracuse, Pittsburgh.
■ The ACC introduces Syracuse and Pittsburgh as conference members. The two schools currently compete in the Big East Conference.
■ The San Francisco 49ers are investing in a $70 million deal to buy the Great America theme park, bumping out of the way one of its biggest opponents to building its new stadium in Santa Clara: the park’s current owner.
■ Goodyear Tire and NASCAR negotiate a five-year extension that will carry their partnership through 2017. Sources value the deal at $12 million to $15 million a year.
■ Augusta National will roll out a luxurious hospitality clubhouse that’s expected to be among the most lavish in golf. The new permanent structure, which will be called Berckmans Place, will debut at the 2013 Masters.
|Mercedes-Benz names Superdome.
■ The New Orleans Saints and Mercedes-Benz reach a 10-year naming-rights agreement that will turn the 36-year-old Louisiana Superdome into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Sources value the deal between $50 million and $60 million.
■ ESPN announces it is parting ways with Hank Williams Jr. and will not broadcast the singer’s “Are You Ready For Some Football?” introduction for “Monday Night Football.” The move follows disparaging comments Williams made about President Obama.
■ The NHL’s Winnipeg Jets play their first regular-season home game, drawing a crowd of more than 15,000 at MTS Centre.
■ The NFL selects Phoenix to host the Super Bowl in 2015, making it the game’s third visit to Arizona.
■ IndyCar Series driver Dan Wheldon dies in a crash during a race at Las Vegas.
■ Anheuser-Busch InBev announces its sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup will extend to include the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
■ FIFA finishes a bumper week of World Cup business with broadcast deals worth $1.85 billion for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. The deals include an estimated $1.2 billion from U.S. broadcast right sales to Fox, Telemundo and Futbol de Primera Radio.
■ The NCAA’s Division I board of directors approves sweeping reforms that give conferences the option of providing up to $2,000 in spending money for athletes.
■ Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer and the St. Louis Blues sign a purchase agreement. Sources value the deal in the $185 million to $190 million range.
■ The NBA fines Miami Heat owner Micky Arison $500,000 for comments he made on Twitter that violated the league’s censure on speaking publicly about the lockout.
■ Penn State is rocked by charges of child sexual abuse against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Athletic Director Tim Curley is placed on administrative leave, and the university fires President Graham Spanier and football coach Joe Paterno.
■ The Pac-12 Conference completes a complex six-month negotiation to acquire key TV, digital and sponsorship rights previously held by multimedia rights holders IMG College and Learfield Sports. The deal will require the conference to pay IMG College and Learfield roughly $15 million a year for the rights, yet clears the way for the launch of the Pac-12 TV channel next year.
■ Tom Gaglardi is formally introduced as Dallas Stars owner, after spending more than a year going through the process of completing a deal for the team.
|MLB, players come to terms.
■ MLB and the MLBPA come to a handshake agreement on a new five-year labor agreement. The deal includes HGH testing for the first time, a new set of cost-controls on the first-year player draft and international free agent signings, hikes in minimum salaries, and the addition of two wild card slots.
■ The NBA and NBPA reach tentative agreement on a new labor deal that calls for a 66-game season starting on Christmas Day.
■ Syracuse University fires longtime assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine amid a scandal involving allegations of sexual abuse.
■ Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver says he is selling the team to Flex-N-Gate President Shahid Khan. Sources value the deal at $750 million.
■ Newman/Haas Racing, one of the most successful teams in the history of Indy car racing, announces its withdrawal from the IndyCar Series.
|Sprint extends NASCAR deal.
■ Sprint announces it has signed a three-year extension of its title sponsorship with NASCAR for its Cup Series through 2016. Terms are not disclosed.
■ New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is in negotiations with Las Vegas developer Steve Wynn to propose a $1 billion casino near Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.
■ The NHL board of governors approves a four-conference realignment format that will create two eight-team conferences and two seven-team conferences.
■ The launch of the Green Bay Packers’ fifth stock sale in team history is met with enthusiasm, with 28,000 shares sold in the first two hours and 20 minutes.
■ MLB becomes the first major pro league in North America to issue dress guidelines for media members. The dress code prohibits beachwear and club outfits, as well as flip-flops.
■ The Big East Conference formally announces the addition of Central Florida, Houston and SMU as full members of the conference, and Boise State and San Diego State as football-only members.
■ Bell Media and Rogers Communications announce they have partnered to acquire a majority share of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment for $1.32 billion (Canadian). The two companies will each pay the current owner — the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan — about $533 million (Canadian) for a 37.5 percent share and 75 percent combined. MLSE owns the Toronto Maple Leafs, Raptors, MLS Toronto FC, the AHL Marlies and Air Canada Centre.
■ Qualcomm Stadium is temporarily replacing its corporate moniker with the name of one of its chip brands, as the venue will be known as Snapdragon Stadium for an 11-day period, from Dec. 18 through Dec. 28.
■ The NBA announces it has renewed three of its major long-term partnership deals — Anheuser-Busch InBev, Gatorade and AutoTrader.com.
— Compiled from SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily archives.