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Volume 21 No. 1
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Armato planning beach volleyball event for July

Former AVP Commissioner Leonard Armato is building a beach volleyball event for Southern California over a week in late July that will include around 11 hours of live telecasts on NBC and NBC Sports Network. As the first FIVB event in the U.S. for a decade, top players from around the world are expected to participate.

FIVB President Ary Graça (left) meets with Leonard Armato, who is putting together an event that will include an FIVB Grand Slam tournament.
The event, engineered by Armato’s Management Plus Enterprises, will combine an FIVB Grand Slam tournament, along with four-person and six-person competitions, with a World Series Cup that will see the top two international beach volleyball squads competing to play the top American team in the inaugural World Series competition.

With a total of $500,000 in prize money, along with an associated concert and music festival planned, event organizers are hoping to draw tens of thousands of people to the Asics World Series of Beach Volleyball, scheduled for July 22-28 in Long Beach, Calif. It might seem ironic that a footwear and apparel brand is title sponsoring an event on the beach, where there is little of both. However, Armato noted Asics’

roots within the indoor volleyball world.

“Volleyball itself has real mass appeal, but beach volleyball has been a little more niche,” he said, noting strong participation figures for the indoor sport, particularly among women. “The bridge between indoor and beach is something we’re trying to build. The whole idea is to up the ante for beach volleyball and give it more mass appeal across all forms of the sport.”

Other sponsors for the event include two longtime former AVP corporate patrons, Bud Light and Paul Mitchell. Hummus marketer Sabra and volleyball maker Mikasa are also sponsors.

Armato took the lead in negotiating with the international governing body to secure the event, but would not reveal if there was a sanctioning fee involved. Armato’s group will operate the event, and the 11 hours of event coverage will be spread out across NBC Sports and its cable NBC Sports Network.

This event comes as the typically splintered sport is becoming even more so. Following a 2010 bankruptcy, the AVP announced a relaunch and has scheduled five events for later this year under new owner Donald Sun. However, the restructured AVP Tour has no commercial partners yet outside of ball manufacturer Wilson. Add in the startup National Volleyball League and the sport has a situation akin to when the Indy Racing League battled CART for a market that had no proof it could support a single league. However, the amount of attention beach volleyball gets from NBC continues to spark interest in the sport.

“This is a pivotal year for pro beach volleyball,” said James Leitz, senior vice president at IMG, which is handling this year’s Manhattan Beach Open, an independent, non-affiliated event. “The AVP is the most recognized brand in the beach game, and if properly managed and executed, they’d be the one to watch. Then there’s the aggregate strategy of the NVL amassing tournaments on a more localized level. … It would be great to have an FIVB event on U.S. soil for certain, but it’s an ambitious plan requiring some big deliverables. Luckily, it has Leonard. I suppose if he can’t do it, there are only a few others who possibly could.”