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Volume 21 No. 1

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Charlie Brown, Darth Vader, Captain America and Lord Snow are packing ’em in at the ballpark. Or at least they did in 2017.

More accurately, the four fictional characters each played a critical role in the evolution of a new data-driven mentality that is reshaping the way Major League Baseball clubs build their game-day promotional schedules.

The licensing arms of those entertainment brands, along with those of Hello Kitty and classic rockers Jerry Garcia, Jimmy Buffett and the Beatles, combined to activate at 98 MLB games last season, according to SportsBusiness Journal’s 12th annual analysis of MLB game-day promotions, more than double the number of dates that were staged by entertainment properties in 2016, and triple 2015’s total.

First Look podcast:


The promotions typically included a stadium-wide takeover, complete with walk-up music for the batters, video-board graphics, roaming costumed characters mingling with similarly dressed fans, and postgame fireworks synced with a soundtrack from the night’s theme. But while the masses were enjoying the unique atmosphere, somewhere in the ballpark a small group paid a premium for an experience that, depending on the theme, may have included meeting a Wookiee before the game and receiving a bobblehead that was exclusive only to them.

As a bonus to the teams, the packages are often purchased by people who are not part of a club’s typical target.

The Milwaukee Brewers, a franchise that’s historically one of the most active when it comes to game-day promotions, built a new data-driven business model last year to maximize the effectiveness of these types of activations.

“There’s a stature to those pop-culture brands,” said Teddy Werner, the Brewers’ vice president of marketing and business strategy. “Not only can you give away an exclusive item, like our limited-edition Jedi Keon bobblehead — but the activation throughout the ballpark enhances the experience for all the fans. More importantly, of the 25 different theme night packages we offered [in 2017], our analytics team determined that 25 percent of the tickets we sold were truly incremental, meaning these were fans that had never, or would likely not have ever, attended a game at Miller Park.”

The team is able to identify social media followers of brands like “Star Wars” who can be targeted with ads. For example, the team’s Grateful Dead night was slotted on an August weeknight when the Twins were in town, which was not projected to be a high-demand game. The Brewers sold all 3,900 of their special-event tickets. Overall, 30,174 fans turned out — 12.4 percent higher than the other dozen Wednesday night home games the team played this year.

Werner said sales of the Brewers’ themed ticket packages could have been higher if not for conservative estimates during year one of the more robust theme-night program.

Mindy Hamilton, senior vice president of global partnerships for Marvel, echoed Werner’s comments about the entertainment industry’s ability to increase game-day revenue.

“These events help with increasing attendance, engaging a sponsor and activating co-branded retail,” she said, “but more importantly it’s about helping teams reach the Marvel fan base who may or may not be into baseball.”

After a May 2016 limited-ticket, superhero-themed event held by the San Francisco Giants — Marvel’s only MLB client that season — the club’s data indicated that 84 percent of the attendees had not been to a Giants game in at least three years, if ever. When the New York Mets handed out 15,000 Thor-Noah Syndergaard bobbleheads this summer, some fans arrived six hours before Citi Field opened, Hamilton said.


Overall, 10 clubs hosted Marvel-themed events last season and distributed more than 100,000 co-branded items, with 18-20 events and at least double the number of units projected for 2018.

Two game-day activation rookies also had strong years.

HBO already had a tangential relationship with the league — MLB’s BAMTech supports the HBO Now streaming service — but the network wanted to become more engaged with the game’s fans.

“This was a collaborative process between the ‘Game of Thrones’ marketing team, MLB and the individual clubs that had been in development for quite some time,” Jeff Peters, HBO’s vice president of licensing and retail, said via email. “Our goal was to collaborate with MLB and reach their audience, extend the themes of ‘Winter is Here’ in a fun way into the MLB/summer landscape and promote Season 7.”

The 21 clubs that staged a “Game of Thrones” night saw average attendance increase 10.4 percent compared to the teams’ seasonlong average on the same night of the week.

Charlie Brown, on the other hand, was more like Roy Hobbs from “The Natural.”

Seven clubs in 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” with “Peanuts”-themed in-game entertainment and a limited-edition Charlie Brown bobblehead.

“Baseball and ‘Peanuts’ are both a part of the DNA of American pop culture and they have been intricately linked since the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip premiered in 1950,” said Lindsay Martinez, Peanuts Worldwide’s vice president of hardlines and partnerships. “Our 2017 bobblehead program and related ‘Peanuts’ nights were incredibly successful, with over 70,000 bobbleheads distributed, and we are looking forward to introducing a new Snoopy bobblehead for the 2018 season.”

But not all successful theme nights are dependent on make-believe characters. Beyond the activations with the entertainment properties, clubs offered a record 647 limited-seating, themed ticket packages in 2017, a more than threefold increase over just two seasons ago.

Katie Jackson, the San Diego Padres’ director of marketing and brand activation, said the team put most of its focus on attracting more community groups in 2017. The year-end numbers indicate that their strategy paid off, as the Padres sold out 31 of their 35 themed events.

MLB clubs also tapped into other pro and college teams in their markets with successful cross-promotions.
Half the teams hosted a night where they partnered with an area college to offer a package that typically included a co-branded cap or T-shirt and a donation to the university. The Boston Red Sox, for example, hosted 35 theme nights in 2017, up from 29 in 2016, and are bullish on their college program.

“Our most successful theme nights were part of our college series promotion with Harvard, Northeastern, UMass and Boston College,” said Travis Pollio, manager of group sales and special events for the club. “Every one of those nights sold out [a total of 4,500 tickets]. We plan to bring the college series back in 2018 and to grow the number of participating schools. This is a pretty popular program across the league.”

Kenny Farrell, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ vice president of marketing and analytics, said his club’s most successful events were Arizona State and University of Arizona nights. The Diamondbacks’ new analytical strategy helped them sell 45 percent more themed-event tickets and generate 33 percent more revenue for their nine dates than they did during the seven themed games they held in 2014, Farrell said.

While specific demographics or current hot brands are usually the target, eight clubs teamed up last season with a lifestyle.

Courtney Griffith, Margaritaville’s marketing director of content and communications, pointed out that by hosting a Jimmy Buffett night, teams can tap into a built-in base of avid brand loyalists in every city who are highly active on social media, which helps the clubs capture data about potential fans.

The Texas Rangers drew 40,276 on their Margaritaville-themed night July 7, which was 23 percent higher than the average for its other 12 Friday night games last season. Margaritaville recently added the Miami Marlins to its roster, and next season fans will be able to buy a game ticket/hotel/transportation package when they stay at the new nearby Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort.

“There are Parrot Heads everywhere,” Griffith said. “And if there is a Margaritaville event near them, they are there. Even more importantly, all summer long I kept hearing people say, ‘This is the first time I’ve been to a game.’”

Major League Baseball is conducting a full-scale review of its headquarters and MLB Advanced Media operations with the aid of management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., a study likely to produce major changes to the league structure and personnel.

The study, initiated in August, precedes last week’s announcement that Bob Bowman, MLB president of business and media, will depart at year’s end. But the review now dovetails directly into MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s task to determine how the sport’s commercial business will be run without Bowman, a visionary who worked with MLB since 2000 and redefined how fans consume digital media and forge connections with baseball.

Manfred said the McKinsey work was prompted in large part by the deal last summer with Walt Disney Co. to acquire a majority stake in BAMTech, the MLBAM subsidiary that provides digital video support for entities such as the WWE, NHL and PGA Tour, among many others. Disney had acquired a smaller stake of BAMTech earlier.

Bob Bowman announced last week that he’ll leave MLB at the end of the year.
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Manfred declined to outline the league’s post-Bowman plans, as they are not yet defined. The matter is slated to be discussed at quarterly owners meetings scheduled for this week in Orlando.

“After the second Disney transaction [with BAMTech], I felt it was appropriate as a large organization to take a comprehensive look at the entire operation, who stayed, who left, and what the entire organization should look like going forward, and make the necessary adjustments,” Manfred said. “I consider that sort of Management 101.”

Bowman began with MLB as president and chief executive of MLBAM, coming into baseball following a diverse political and business career that included state and federal government, corporate leadership and e-commerce. He was elevated to his current title in late 2014 as part of the commissioner transition from Bud Selig to Manfred, tasked with overseeing all of baseball’s revenue-generating activities including media, sponsorship and licensing.

“Rob will need to take a step back, take stock of where we are, and create a structure that will allow us to move forward with Bob gone, and I have confidence he will do that,” said San Francisco Giants President and Chief Executive Larry Baer. “We have a lot of assets and a lot of talent left in the building.”

Executives likely to play a key role in MLB business operations in the new structure include Chief Operating Officer Tony Petitti and Noah Garden, executive vice president of business. There is no timetable for the McKinsey work to conclude or the post-Bowman plan to be determined. Bowman’s contract ends Dec. 31.

Both the McKinsey work and the forthcoming post-Bowman reorganization also tie into the One Baseball philosophy Manfred has sought to develop since becoming commissioner in early 2015. Among Manfred’s early moves was to unify baseball’s business functions and more closely align his office with lower levels of the game such as Little League. And MLB is scheduled to move into a new midtown Manhattan headquarters in 2019 that will house the currently split MLB and MLBAM.

First Look podcast, with Bowman discussion beginning at the 17:40 mark:

Bowman's legacy
A sampling of the products and services created under the leadership of Bob Bowman, MLB president of business and media.
MLB.com At Bat: MLB’s flagship mobile application, featuring live game tracking, video, statistics, news and other content, now stands as the highest-grossing sports app of all time.
Ballpark: The in-stadium counterpart to At Bat offers a variety of ballpark-specific features, wayfinding, food ordering and other services.
MLB.TV: Success by baseball’s digital out-of-market game package in delivering games to digital platforms ultimately helped pave the way for BAMTech.
Statcast: MLB’s emerging statistical system combines radar and optical tracking technology and has placed measures such as exit velocity and catch probability into the general lexicon for baseball fans.
Beat The Streak: A simple yet innovative take on fantasy baseball, the game merely involves fans picking a player each day to get a hit in real life, with a goal of beating Joe DiMaggio’s MLB record streak of 56 games. After 17 seasons of play, millions of players, several corporate sponsors, and a whopping $5.6 million prize, the mark has yet to be beaten.
In-market streaming: For years one of MLB’s thorniest problems, Bowman helped guide agreements with Fox, Comcast and others to deliver in-market live game streaming for 27 of 30 MLB clubs.
— Eric Fisher
“We’ve made some progress on this front so far, and I continue to believe strongly in the notion of one Major League Baseball,” Manfred said.

NASCAR in 2012-13 went through a somewhat similar review of its competition division with New York-based McKinsey, a study that produced several rules changes and accelerated its adoption of new technology.

As for Bowman, he leaves a legacy that helped catapult baseball from a rather staid organization to a restless innovator that created a series of products that fundamentally altered the fan experience for fans at home, on the go, and in the ballpark.

In addition to creating successful digital products for baseball (see below), Bowman was the driving force behind the creation of BAMTech. After being formally spun off in 2015, BAMTech is now majority owned by Disney, following two separate transactions collectively worth $2.58 billion. Disney now holds 75 percent of BAMTech, with MLBAM at slightly more than 15 percent, and the NHL at just under 10 percent.

“There are very few people who have created multiple billions of value like this in such a short period of time, and Bob is on that list,” said sports industry consultant Marc Ganis.

Bowman, 62, said those two BAMTech equity sales helped accelerate internal considerations of leaving MLB, though he has not detailed what his next career move will be, saying he was “focused on the transition.” He credited the executive team under him, many of whom are now around the same age of 45 he was when he first took the MLBAM role.

“These folks are really smart and they are ready to run the company,” Bowman said. “The time is right.”


In our First Look podcast this week, SBJ’s Abe Madkour, Bill King and David Broughton discuss our cover story on MLB promotions, Top Rank’s place in the boxing narrative, and the legacy of Bob Bowman at MLB.

The NBA has named Amy Brooks the league’s first chief innovation officer, signaling the league’s growing emphasis on developing creative global business strategies.

Brooks, who joined the NBA in 2005, also has been promoted to president of the NBA’s team marketing and business operations division. She had been executive vice president of TMBO since 2014, and she will continue to oversee that department in her new role.

The new position and promotion are effective immediately and give the already highly regarded Brooks more influence within the league. The move also points to the NBA’s diversity efforts as Brooks assumes a more senior executive role.

Brooks will report to NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum and will be responsible for creating and assessing the league’s innovative business efforts.

Amy Brooks was also promoted to president of TMBO.
Photo by: DAVID DUROCHIK
“We have an incredible opportunity right now in the way our sport is growing on a global basis and in the U.S., and what we need is to take full advantage of the opportunities that are presented around the game,” Tatum said. “Amy, given her experience, expertise and track record of bringing innovation to teams, whether it is the jersey patch or on-court signage, is the right person to take the business to the next level.”

Brooks, 43, will lead a 10- to 15-member staff to develop business initiatives.

“She has a unique combination of skills,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “She played basketball at a high level at Stanford and she has a basketball gene you can’t teach. No. 2, she has a unique skill set developed by being part of TMBO for over the past 10 years. Amy’s extraordinary experience with the business side of sports makes her ideally suited for her expanded role focused on exploring new ways to enhance the business of the league and our teams.”

One initiative Brooks will address is the potential development of a midseason NBA tournament, an idea that has been discussed over the past few years.

“One of the major projects is how do we continue to develop the game content and non-game content and deliver that to consumers around the world in the way they are trying to consume it,” Tatum said.

Brooks also will work closely with NBA Chief Financial Officer J.B. Lockhart in developing global business initiatives.

“It is the opportunity to make changes around our game and the way we market our game and our players,” Brooks said. “This is a position that looks at the opportunities to grow and looks to make rapid changes to both develop our business and grow our game. We have several new opportunities to change the way we do things, and my role is to make sure I am interacting with all key stakeholders to properly assess all those decisions and when and if we should make them.”

Brooks’ duties in running the league’s team marketing and business operations will not change. “I will continue to lead the group and the responsibility there is to help our teams drive revenue and innovate across all our leagues,” Brooks said.


New York City FC has signed its second esports player, which comes as MLS and its clubs begin to push into the competitive landscape of EA Sports’ “FIFA” franchise.

NYCFC in April became the first MLS club to sign a “FIFA” esports player, and the new signing is a reflection of the game’s increasingly large reach and popularity, NYCFC President Jon Patricof said.

“Even going back two years ago, we thought esports fit well with our strategy, helping us connect with our existing fans and potentially new ones,” Patricof said. “As more players, media attention and money enter the space, we think it’s important to find competitive players who are among the best in the world, and can help us with that strategy.”

The team’s two players, Chris Holly and new signing Joey Calabro, play on different platforms — PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, respectively — which Patricof said will further the team’s exposure in competitions. In August, Holly was runner-up in the PlayStation division at the first FIFA Interactive Club World Cup, a tournament made up of players who represent pro soccer clubs, while Calabro is one of the top-ranked Xbox players in the U.S. and recently competed in the FIFA Interactive World Cup Grand Final in London, where he was a quarterfinalist. The two players will wear NYCFC jerseys when they play the game, as well as have their in-game teams wear NYCFC jerseys. Patricof declined to comment on the financial arrangements of the signings.

Chris Holly (seated) is one of two gamers who will sport NYCFC colors in “FIFA” esports competition.
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The signing comes after FIFA and EA Sports’ recent announcement that they would launch a global competition and framework for the game’s esports platform, which would culminate in an eWorld Cup.

MLS is encouraging its teams to sign their own players as well to take part in these competitions, according to multiple sources, as the league investigates more ways to be active in esports.

Multiple teams across MLS, including the New York Red Bulls, are working through player signings of their own that will be announced in the coming weeks, according to sources across the league.

As part of the competition, which is being called the FIFA 18 Global Series on the Road to the FIFA eWorld Cup 2018, EA and FIFA will partner with leagues around the world to host qualifying competitions, where players can represent their favorite or local teams. EA and FIFA did not comment on which leagues will be involved in the series. MLS, which first appeared in the 2000 edition of the “FIFA” game, signed a five-year extension with EA Sports last year.

While a number of European soccer clubs have made investments in esports organizations akin to what many U.S.-based teams and owners have done, many more have looked to sign individual players to compete in tournaments under their respective banners, such as Paris Saint-Germain, AS Roma and NYCFC sister club Manchester City. Compared with the NBA’s partnership with Take-Two Interactive, which will create a NBA 2K esports league with team franchises and buy-in fees, MLS esports efforts may mirror that European approach, sources said, which would allow clubs to get involved in gaming with less risk.

EA does not release individual game sales, but more than 7 million players participated in the preliminaries for the 2017 FIFA Interactive World Cup, and there were more than 2.3 million views of the finals on Twitch. The prize pool was $1.3 million.

MLS has grown more involved with the game as its popularity has increased. The league, alongside EA Sports, hosted a tournament at the 2016 All-Star Game in San Jose. In March, the league hosted a qualifying tournament for the game’s championship series where players used MLS clubs in-game.

The L.A. Galaxy, which is featured heavily in the “FIFA 18” game mode The Journey, also held a 64-player tournament celebrating the launch of the game with MLS and EA Sports. The team is expected to sign one of the players from that tournament soon.


As NASCAR loses its most popular driver after this weekend, the question remains: Who will take on the mantle?

Tops in trackside sales

Fanatics reports that sales of trackside merchandise for the under-30 segment of drivers are up 37 percent year over year. Here are the top-20 sellers. Names in bold are drivers under the age of 30.

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2. Chase Elliott
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Kyle Busch
6. Martin Truex Jr.
7. Brad Keslowski
8. Joey Logano
9. Danica Patrick
10. Kyle Larson
11. Ryan Blaney
12. Denny Hamlin
13. Kurt Busch
14. Matt Kenseth
15. Kasey Kahne
16. Austin Dillon
17. Clint Bowyer
18. Ryan Newman
19. Daniel Suarez
20. Erik Jones

Source: NASCAR via Fanatics

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement will be the latest in a string of major departures in NASCAR over the last three seasons that also includes Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle. Matt Kenseth this month said he, too, will likely walk away after this season after being unable to secure a ride.

Yet many in the sport believe NASCAR has legitimate young stars in the making. While drivers in their late 20s or early 30s like Joey Logano and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have already won in NASCAR’s premier series and attracted solid fan followings, a bevy of young drivers are primed to take leading roles in the coming years.

Data from social media metrics firm MVPindex, diecast licensee Lionel and merchandiser Fanatics, plus a survey of more than two dozen executives across the sport, point to 21-year-old Chase Elliott as the most bankable young driver. Ryan Blaney (23), Bubba Wallace (24), Kyle Larson (25) and William Byron (19) also were flagged for their marketability and talent on the track.

NASCAR has seen its share of young guns over the years, but will be leaning on this next crop of drivers more heavily than ever as the sport battles weakness in such key business metrics as ratings, sponsorship and attendance.

“We’re thrilled to death with the number of young talents out there and the variety that fans have to choose from,” said Jill Gregory, NASCAR’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “Obviously Chase and Blaney both have great storylines — history in the sport, an appeal to our core fan base and they’re very engaging to the new fan base — and I think we’re seeing some really good growth in Larson’s fan base. We have this army of drivers where there’s a little bit of something for everyone.”

Gregory said the sanctioning body has been investing in programs such as the NASCAR Drive for Diversity and NASCAR Next to identify up-and-coming talent. Graduates of the programs include the likes of Larson, Blaney, Wallace and Elliott.

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CHASE ELLIOTT

Age: 21
2018 entry: No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro
 Team: Hendrick Motorsports
 Highlights: The son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliott already has 20 top-five results in his first two years in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, including a number of second-place finishes.

Elliott is linked to NASCAR’s storied past as the son of hall of famer Bill Elliott, a 16-time winner of the sport’s award for most popular driver. Chase Elliott also drives for the venerable Hendrick Motorsports and replaced the legendary Gordon in 2016.

Elliott consistently makes the top 10 of social media rankings from MVPindex, which examines engagement levels with followers and the subsequent exposure value for sponsors. Elliott has nearly 1.2 million followers among Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, by far the most of his NASCAR contemporaries, and he’s the youngest driver in MVPindex’s ranking of the top-10 drivers.

Companies including NAPA Auto Parts, Hooters, Kelley Blue Book, Mountain Dew and Under Armour back Elliott, who generated $3,900 in value per social media post this year, good enough for a top-five spot among all drivers ranked by MVPindex. Elliott also generated the highest average engagement rate across social media among the top 10. An average of 1.2 percent of his followers like, share or comment on each post, according to MVPindex.

RYAN BLANEY

Age: 23
2018 entry: No. 12 Menards Ford
Team: Team Penske
 Highlights: The laid-back son of former NASCAR racer Dave Blaney scored his first win at NASCAR’s top level this year and is the star of a podcast on NASCAR.com.

Elliott, who is repped by Fuel Sports Management Group, endeared himself to NASCAR fans late last month at Martinsville, when after the race he confronted veteran driver Denny Hamlin, who had wrecked Elliott, denying him his first win at NASCAR’s top level. The following week, Texas Motor Speedway created banners and advertisements dubbing Elliott “The People’s Champion.”

From a diecast car perspective, Elliott’s No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet was Lionel’s best-selling diecast collectible of 2016, the first time since 2011 that a driver other than Earnhardt took that spot. So, who does Lionel see as potentially big sellers moving forward?

KYLE LARSON

Age: 25
2018 entry: No. 42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
 Highlights: The Asian-American driver had a breakout year in 2017 with four wins at NASCAR’s top level before being eliminated from the NASCAR playoffs after a blown engine at Kansas Speedway last month.

Michelle Fannin, Lionel NASCAR Collectibles vice president of marketing and communications, said that 2018 preorders for Elliott are strong, as are diecast cars for Team Penske’s Blaney, who like Elliott is the son of a former NASCAR driver. Blaney’s key sponsors include Menards, and he is represented by Sports Management Network.

Jesse Ghiorzi, director of brand strategy for Indianapolis-based agency Charge, noted that Blaney has started to carve out a true brand for himself off the track, both by being personable in his social media posts and by participating in a podcast run by NASCAR that started this year. The podcast recently eclipsed 1 million downloads. Charge works with NASCAR to help drivers build their brands.

DARRELL WALLACE JR.

Age: 24
2018 entry: No. 43 Click n’ Close entry
Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
 Highlights: The first African-American to earn a full-time ride at NASCAR’s top level since 1971, Wallace will drive the famous No. 43 in 2018. He has six wins in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and six top-five finishes in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

Fannin also cited potential for Byron. “Sales orders for William Byron’s 2018 diecast are also strong, and if he can sustain that connection with collectors over time, he’ll be another success story for us,” Fannin said.

MVPindex said Byron has shown the largest percentage growth in social media followers among NASCAR drivers this season — 131 percent — as he went from 35,000 to 80,000 followers. Next season, Byron will drive the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro for Hendrick Motorsports with Liberty University and Axalta as key sponsors. Byron is represented by Wasserman.

Given his potential to bring in new and younger demographics to NASCAR, Wallace — who is African-American — is among the drivers who could vault to stardom. MVPindex noted that Facebook posts from Wallace, who moved up from 21 to 18 in its top driver rankings this year, have an unusually high engagement rate — 2.4 percent. Top drivers typically average less than 1 percent. Wallace spent much of this season on the sideline after his Xfinity Series team folded, but next year moves to the Monster Energy Series as driver of the No. 43, sponsored by brands including STP, U.S. Air Force and Click n’ Close.

WILLIAM BYRON

Age: 19
2018 entry: No. 24 Liberty University/Axalta Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
 Highlights: The youngest driver who will compete full time in the Monster Energy Series next year, Byron has had a precipitous rise to NASCAR’s top level after honing his skills through the iRacing video game simulator as a teenager and being poached from Toyota’s development program by Rick Hendrick.

Daniel Suarez, Austin Dillon, Alex Bowman, Erik Jones and Christopher Bell (who will drive in the Xfinity Series next year) are some of the other young drivers in NASCAR making some noise.

While all eyes will be on Earnhardt in Homestead as he turns his final laps, he will still be around the track in the future as a broadcaster for NBC Sports. But as the offseason beckons, industry executives will be watching to see how much attrition, if any, the sport suffers from Earnhardt fans who will no longer be as invested in the sport.

“I think you’ll see very little attrition. I believe Junior fans will stay in the sport and start to develop new driver loyalties,” said Marc Bluestein, president and CEO of Aquarius Sports & Entertainment, which counts AAA and Florida Hospital among its clients in the sport. “What I think people will focus on is what you kind of call the loud minority. The sexier story will be, ‘Hey, this 10 percent of people aren’t following or watching NASCAR anymore because Dale Sr. and Dale Jr. are no longer racing,’ as opposed to the 90 percent of people that are still in the sport and following other drivers.