Five years after stepping down as AVP commissioner, Leonard Armato seems to still be the heavily factionalized sport’s best hope for commercial viability.
Starting next week, Armato is again presenting the only beach volleyball tournament in the United States sanctioned by FIVB, the sport’s international governing body. The World Series of Beach Volleyball, a joint venture with NBC Sports, runs July 22-27 in Long Beach, Calif.
The event boasts top players, including the pairing of Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross along with fellow Olympians Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal, playing for a million-dollar purse. There will be 18 hours of coverage on various NBC-owned networks, including 90 minutes of live action on NBC Sports over both days of the final weekend.
Leonard Armato hopes for a break-even year for the World Series of Beach Volleyball.
Sponsors include Asics (title sponsor), MGM Resorts, Bud Light, Paul Mitchell, Sabra, Quicken Loans, Barefoot Wines, Pop Chips and Uber.
Fiat is sponsoring an associated music festival, arranged through a partnership with Clear Channel.
Armato expects 50,000 people to attend the event over its run.
“We have scale; now we need to build viewership and sponsorship,” he said.
The event was unprofitable in its first year, but Armato hopes to break even this time around and get into the black next year.
With its Olympic ties, NBC is a longtime supporter of beach volleyball, but this event marks its only beach volleyball telecasts of the year.
Rob Simmelkjaer, NBC Sports Ventures senior vice president, said he is anticipating growth in viewership and sponsorship revenue. “When we got into this last year, the opportunity was to create a leadership event and the biggest thing was making it an FIVB event so the best in the world would play,” he said.
Meanwhile, the long-running AVP now has a seven-city tour administered by IMG and is on CBS Sports Network via a time buy.
“There are really only two events left that matter: This one in Long Beach and the Manhattan Beach Open [one of the AVP’s seven events],” said Elevation Group founder and managing partner Steve Lindecke, a longtime promoter of beach volleyball. “We’re not running pro events anymore, because if sponsors were confused before, they are even more confused now. But Leonard has always been a great salesman and he maintained his NBC relationships, so he can still get things done.”