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Volume 21 No. 2
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AVP hires IMG to oversee all tour stops

The Association of Volleyball Professionals, which was revived last year, has hired IMG to oversee operations for a seven-stop tour this year.

The tour, which is owned by Donald Sun, plans to visit seven cities across the U.S. from late May to late September.

Sun, the son of a California billionaire, acquired rights to the AVP after it folded in 2010 and filed for bankruptcy protection. He revived it last year and took it to seven cities nationwide.

Wasserman Media Group oversaw operations for five tour events and IMG oversaw two in 2013, but Sun hired IMG to oversee all operations this year. James Leitz, IMG senior vice president and director of action sports, will lead the effort.

“They’ve done volleyball for close to 25 years now,” Sun said. “They also bring respect and enthusiasm to what they do, and I like that.”

The AVP is seeking a revival on the business front.
The AVP was founded in 1983, and its popularity surged after beach volleyball became a marquee Olympic sport in 2004. By 2008, it held more than 30 events and generated annual revenue of nearly $25 million. But the tour filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010.

Sun bought it out of bankruptcy with hopes of reviving the AVP over the next five to seven years. The goal this year is to add several more sponsors, increase attendance and work toward a new TV agreement. It is in the second year of a two-year time buy with CBS Sports Network.

The tour had limited sponsorship success last year. It signed Wilson to a multiyear deal and Mercedes-Benz’s Smart USA brand to a one-year agreement.

It has signed a new deal for this year with Gallo Wines, which will promote its Refresh brand, and it is in extension talks with Smart USA.

Sun said conversations with potential corporate sponsors have improved after the new AVP completed its first season. Many executives remembered the tour failing in 2010 and wanted to see it succeed before committing, but Sun said that mentality has begun to change.

“From a partnership side, sponsors, television, related partners, if we can overachieve for them and continue bringing back the enthusiasm for this brand, this year will be a success,” Sun said. “Rome wasn’t built in a day. This is going to take time.”

The AVP faces some competition to be the premier beach volleyball organization in the United States. Former AVP Commissioner Leonard Armato is overseeing the Asics World Series of Beach Volleyball, a FIVB-sanctioned competition in Long Beach, Calif. The event, which will take place for the second time this July, had 11 hours of programming on NBC and NBC Sports Network during its first year.

Sun said that the Asics World Series event should help the AVP and that the AVP should help the Asics World Series.
“As long as we’re all here to promote the sport, it’s OK,” he said. “It’s important to have a domestic tour [like the AVP]. This is the training ground for Olympic medalists.”