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Volume 20 No. 42

Events and Attractions

Chip Ganassi Racing is throwing a social media party it hopes will help the team attract young, millennial fans.

The “Ganassi Sound Garage, a Digi Bash” is an invitation-only event on Sept. 8 that will cater to hundreds of 15- to 24-year-old social media influencers who will get a chance to meet the team’s youngest drivers and attend a concert performed by country pop singer Cassadee Pope, a former competitor on “The Voice.” It will be held at the team’s shop in Concord, N.C.

Invitees can meet young Ganassi drivers Kwasniewski, Larson and Karam and “The Voice” performer Cassadee Pope (below).

The idea to throw a “Digi Bash” concert grew out of a staff meeting last year. The team was wrestling with how to attract young fans and promote its stable of young drivers, who include Sprint Cup driver Kyle Larson, 22; Nationwide Series driver Dylan Kwasniewski, 19; and sports car and IndyCar driver Sage Karam, 19. Sponsorship account manager Brad Zimmerman floated the idea of hosting a concert and inviting young people with large social media followings.

“It became a collective effort from that point on of what we could do to tell this story,” said John Olguin, Ganassi Racing’s vice president of communications. “Music and social media are both paramount to this group. It’s a chance to bring those together and introduce these guys as young, cool drivers that [invited guests] can follow.”

The team plans to make the “Digi Bash” an annual event. It is going to ask some of its existing sponsors to help underwrite the event.

NASCAR and IndyCar will stream the concert on their websites.

Ganassi Racing is working with MVPIndex, a sports social media agency, to identify young people in the Carolinas with large social media followings to invite to the event. It expects 175 to 300 people to attend.

Big Machine Records, an associate sponsor of the team that works with artists such as Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift, liked the idea and worked with the team to bring its artist, Pope, to perform at the event.

A rendering shows the stage for “Ganassi Sound Garage, a Digi Bash.”

The team plans to set up a reverse red carpet where guests walk down the red carpet toward Larson, Karam, Kwasniewski and Pope. They will be able to meet the drivers and singer and take selfies and photos with them. There also will be cars on display from Ganassi’s auto partner, General Motors.

“One of the things we know about social media and millennials is user-generated content is king, so everything is about trying to generate their own content,” Olguin said.

Ganassi Racing plans to track the amount of social media generated by guests at the event. It also plans to look at how much people who don’t attend interact with the tweets, photos and Facebook posts created by guests.

“What we really want to do is take a look at this and see what it does in order to set expectations for the following years,” Olguin said. “We’re going to learn a lot.”

Guinness brand manager Jon Urch skipped the suite and headed for the lower bowl of Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium before the recent Liverpool FC-AC Milan match. Moments before the game began, more than 40,000 Liverpool fans raised red-and-white scarves and belted the team’s anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

“I never imagined I’d see that,” Urch said. “There was such a great vibe. Such a great feeling. It was pretty impressive.”

The moment stood out in Urch’s mind as an example of what distinguished this year’s Guinness International Champions Cup, a 13-game tournament featuring eight of Europe’s top soccer clubs. In all respects, the second edition of the tournament exceeded expectations by attracting more spectators and reached more viewers


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and staff writer Tripp Mickle analyze the "summer of soccer," what it means for the sport in the U.S. and what it could mean for Major League Soccer.

worldwide. It also included the most-attended soccer game in U.S. history, a match between Manchester United and Real Madrid that drew 109,318 to Michigan Stadium on Aug. 2.

“We had more games, we had more attendance, there was so much more consumer exposure, and it looks like we sold a lot of beers, so we’re happy,” Urch said.

See also: Execs weigh in on soccer’s big summer in the U.S.

Guinness wasn’t the only one pleased with this year’s event. In its second year of owning tournament organizer Relevent Sports, Stephen Ross’ company RSE Ventures saw attendance increase 30 percent, TV rights revenue rise 700 percent and sponsorship revenue increase 300 percent. The event also served as a vehicle to help create a new media distribution business called Catalyst Media Group, which increased distribution overseas from 100 million households last year to more than 600 million households this year.

Liverpool FC and its fans converged in Charlotte, the second-best-attended tournament site.
The increases in revenue were offset by some increases in costs, which were a result of going to twice as many venues and securing more TV and sponsorship rights from participating teams. But RSE Ventures co-founder Matt Higgins said the tournament was profitable for the second year.

“We did extremely well, and you know how hard it is to make a complicated business like this successful,” Higgins said. “The growth was strong.”

The success of the tournament bolstered Higgins’ confidence that RSE Ventures is ready to expand it to Asia and Oceania next year. The company signed a partnership with Australian sports marketing agency TLA Worldwide to run its first edition of the International Champions Cup in Asia next year, and it has begun scouting potential locations in China, Indonesia and other markets.

An Asian edition of the tournament will operate concurrently with a U.S. one.

“There’s tons to improve upon [in the U.S.], but we’re now ready to take the next step and go to Asia,” Higgins said. “We want to do that because teams want to take the tournament to Asia. We need to operate globally.”

The tournament’s attendance increases this year came on the heels of the most-watched World Cup in U.S. history. Large crowds turned out in Ann Arbor, Mich., (109,318), Charlotte (69,364) and New York’s Yankee Stadium (49,653). The attendance there was offset by smaller crowds in Toronto (10,603) and Philadelphia (12,169).

The attendance increases helped boost merchandise sales for clubs participating in the tournament. Liverpool FC Chief Commercial Officer Billy Hogan said the team saw a 200 percent increase in e-commerce and U.S.-related sales over the past month from the same period last year. In Charlotte, for example, long, weaving lines were evident at virtually every merchandise stand, even outside the venue.

“A lot of that is impacted by the tour,” Hogan said. “Not only are people buying at the venue, but they’re going online to the shop and buying there as well.”

TV viewership in the U.S. delivered mixed results. The most-watched match averaged 726,000 viewers on Fox and featured Manchester United-Real Madrid on Aug. 2. Fox Sports 1 delivered its highest viewership when it averaged 504,000 viewers for the ManU-Liverpool final on Aug. 4. The lowest-rated game averaged 21,000 viewers on Fox Sports 2 and featured Real Madrid-AS Roma on July 29.

As RSE Ventures looks toward next year, it will need to finalize a title sponsorship for its tournaments in the U.S. and Asia. Guinness was in the last year of a two-year deal and is in discussions with RSE about returning. RSE also could consider bundling both tournaments and selling a single sponsorship for them.

It will face the challenge that many of the teams it showcased this year, such as Liverpool, will opt to skip the U.S. and go to other markets next year. But it stands to benefit from the recognition after this year’s World Cup that the U.S. market is embracing the sport, said John Guppy, founder of Chicago-based consulting firm Gilt Edge Soccer Marketing. That should help as it looks to lure other big-name clubs to the U.S. for the third edition of the tour.

“In the past, some [soccer clubs] thought there was something here but weren’t convinced,” Guppy said. “Now every one of those brands look at the U.S. and see a 10 out of 10 opportunity.”


Year No. of teams No. of venues No. of matches Total attendance
2014 8 13 13 642,224
2013 8 7 12 492,575
2012* 11 8 9 338,483
2011* 13 14 14 584,484
2009* 4 6 6 336,813


Date (Day) Venue (city) Matchup Attendance
July 24 (Thurs.) BMO Field (Toronto) AC Milan-Olympiakos 10,603
July 26 (Sat.) Sports Authority Field at Mile High (Denver) AS Roma-Manchester United 54,116
July 26 (Sat.) Kabam Field at California Memorial Stadium (Berkeley, Calif.) Inter Milan-Real Madrid 62,583
July 27 (Sun.) Heinz Field (Pittsburgh) AC Milan-Manchester City 34,347
July 27 (Sun.) Soldier Field (Chicago) Liverpool-Olympiakos 36,170
July 29 (Tues.) FedEx Field (Landover, Md.) Inter Milan-Manchester United 61,238
July 29 (Tues.) Cotton Bowl (Dallas) AS Roma-Real Madrid 57,512
July 30 (Wed.) Yankee Stadium (New York) Liverpool-Manchester City 49,653
Aug. 2 (Sat.) Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia) AS Roma-Inter Milan 12,169
Aug. 2 (Sat.) TCF Bank Stadium (Minneapolis) Manchester City-Olympiakos 34,047
Aug. 2 (Sat.) Michigan Stadium (Ann Arbor, Mich.) Manchester United-Real Madrid 109,318
Aug. 2 (Sat.) Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte) AC Milan-Liverpool 69,364
Aug. 4 (Mon.) Sun Life Stadium (Miami) Liverpool-Manchester United 51,104

* Event was played as the Herbalife World Football Challenge. Its name was changed for 2013 after the event was purchased by RSE Ventures.
Note: The tourney was not held in 2010 because of the FIFA World Cup that year.
Compiled by Austin Karp, SportsBusiness Daily

American City Business Journals, parent company of SportsBusiness Journal/Daily, has acquired a 50 percent stake in Executive Sport Ltd., the international sports business-to-business event and networking business operating under the brand name Leaders.

Terms of ACBJ’s investment in ESL were not disclosed.

Leaders produces five events in New York, London and Lisbon, Portugal, that bring together senior executives across the sports business and performance communities. In addition to the conferences, Leaders produces custom events for the NFL, NBA and UFC. The company also launched its Insights unit  to develop additional content.

ESL founder and CEO James Worrall and COO Simon Lau, owners of the London-based company, will spearhead the continued international expansion of Leaders as well as create events across other industry sectors under the Leaders brand name.

ACBJ sees Leaders as a natural fit with its current business platforms.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to help Leaders grow, and I am especially pleased that this is the first true step beyond the U.S. for our sports business group,” said ACBJ President and CEO Whitney Shaw. “Because of our ownership of SportsBusiness Journal, SportsBusiness Daily, our Global edition and our own sports conference group, we knew firsthand of Leaders. What we loved most about the company was the strength and flexibility of its brand, the international reputation of its events and the fact that the business has shown year-on-year growth in a competitive sector every year from its start seven years ago.”

Worrall said ACBJ is well-suited to help Leaders grow.

“It was incredibly flattering to receive an approach from ACBJ several months ago,” he said. “With Simon and I retaining 50 percent of the business alongside such an influential group of businesses in media and publishing, we hope to accelerate our growth over the next five years.”

— Staff report

Colorado’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge bicycle race will see a small increase in overall sponsorship revenue from 2013, following two consecutive years of major partnership growth. The race, which runs Aug. 18-24, will boast a total sponsorship budget of approximately $7 million for the second consecutive year.

Despite the negligible gain, race management views the sponsorship package as a success. The race was dealt a major setback in the fall of 2013 when founding partners RadioShack and Nissan pulled out of cycling entirely. Beer partner New Belgium brewery departed shortly thereafter.

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge will have a total sponsorship budget of about $7 million for the second straight year.

Management spent much of 2014 filling the approximately $1.5 million gap with renewals and new deals.

“We had a big hole to fill,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO of the race. “So to be able to fill it and actually go forward with new categories and improvements within existing categories is a victory.”

The race renewed the majority of its founding partnerships, which are valued in the mid-six-figure range. Centura Health, First Bank, Smashburger, UnitedHealthcare, Coca-Cola, the Colorado Tourism Board and Colorado State University all re-upped. It also brought back Sierra Nevada, which was the original beer sponsor in 2011.

Management then signed a handful of new deals at the official partner level — valued in the low six figures — with Redfox headphones, Edward Jones Investments, Certified Angus Beef and the Colorado National Guard.

The cornerstone of the race’s new sponsorship revenue is a two-year founding deal with auto manufacturer Lexus. Auto deals are increasingly important to cycling races, which require a sizable fleet of cars for operations. Some races rent their fleet, which adds substantial costs. As part of its deal, Lexus will supply the entire race caravan with 125 cars.

“The fleet is exclusive to Lexus,” Hunter said. “That is a big deal.”

Will Nicklas, Lexus’ corporate manager of marketing, planning and communications, said the caravan features seven Lexus models. The Lexus IS 250 F-Sport coupe will be the official pace car.

“It’s a giant parade of our cars for seven days across Colorado,” Nicklas said. “It’s an authentic way to be part of the race.”

The deal also gives Lexus ownership of the race’s green jersey, which is awarded to the top sprinter, and allows the brand to award the overall race winner with a free three-year lease on its hybrid model, the CT 200h. The auto manufacturer also will display a 500-square-foot activation zone at the event festival. The activation includes a bicycle valet service for festival attendees, information on Lexus vehicles, and racing statistics for every rider in the event.

The deal adds cycling to Lexus’ portfolio of sports properties, which includes the U.S. Golf Association and U.S. Open. Lexus also will activate at a handful of participatory cycling events in 2015.

Nicklas said cycling represents a shift in strategy away from traditional media-driven partnerships. While the U.S. Pro Challenge broadcasts on NBC Sports in the U.S. and on Eurosport internationally, the race reaches a million or so spectators on the roads of Colorado.

“The [golf] deals are geared toward spectators, and we feel [cycling] is more cutting-edge,” he said. “Cycling plays well with the younger buyer who is into fitness.”

Fred Dreier is a writer in Colorado.