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Volume 20 No. 41
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GM’s drama, NFL’s draw and NBC’s Olympic love

One of the most talked about stories last week was the sudden departure of Joel Ewanick as CMO of General Motors. We’ve written about Ewanick’s role in sports before, so I was surprised by the move, especially with the reported reason: that he didn’t fully vet the company’s recent sponsorship deal with Manchester United. But his exit came a day before the company formally announced a new deal that included a shirt sponsorship with Man U that was reported to be worth $60 million to $70 million a year over seven years, and was said to be renegotiated amid Ewanick’s departure. That’s the part that had people talking. As one source said, “The fact that Ewanick could do a seven-year, $600 million deal without sign-off from the top is mind-boggling. If he could do that, then something is wrong with GM’s internal policies.” Another added, “Didn’t realize how much he paid Man U. Amazing that GM execs were able to renegotiate the deal.”

We all know the NFL’s offseason has been filled with controversy. But early numbers portend that fans aren’t turned off. The Patriots opened training camp July 26 with more than 12,000 in attendance in Foxboro. For practice. That easily marks a single-session record, and is a far cry from when I’d sit on a hill overlooking football fields at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst to watch the hapless team run drills in the early 1970s. But it’s not just in New England — look around at some other numbers: A record crowd estimated at 14,500 attended the NFL Cardinals’ practice in Flagstaff, Ariz. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 attended the Bears’ first padded practice of training camp in Bourbonnais, Ill. A record crowd of 5,715, a sellout, attended the Texans’ practice at the team’s Methodist Training Center. Each of the team’s practices opened to the fans were sold out. What does this tell us? There is an unquenchable desire for fans to be close to the NFL, for getting inside the game and having access to players, coaches and “the action.” With many revenue streams mature, teams have to try to monetize this not just through on-site opportunities but also digital programming.

My window to the Olympics always starts with the “Today” show. In monitoring news coverage at SportsBusiness Daily, we see “Today” morph into a two-week infomercial for the Olympic Movement every two years. It’s flag-waving (U.S. only) and cheerleading at its core. I am not being negative; I find parts of it interesting and informative, but more of it mind-numbing and cringe-worthy. But give them credit: NBC doesn’t go through the motions or fake it. Nary a negative word is ever said, and it is obvious that Matt Lauer and cohorts really love the Games. NBC and its talent team are “all in,” and I kept thinking how this surely made a difference when the company made its successful bid to IOC officials last year in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Summer fun: Roger Waters’ “The Wall” performance was a highlight. Great theatrics and sound. Yes, I know it should be with the vocals for the 68-year-old Waters clearly piped in at times. … I’m enjoying HBO’s “The Newsroom.” It is well-acted, especially Jeff Daniels as anchor Will McAvoy and Emily Mortimer as producer Mackenzie MacHale. Some feel it’s too preachy and heavy-handed. If you’ve been watching, what do you think?

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at