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Volume 25 No. 29

On The Ground

SMT Live: Experimentation is the new disruption

By Abe Madkour and Ross Nethery

For the last few years, this conference was dominated by talk about disruption. Disrupting the experience, the status quo, the interface. Now we’ve moved on to experimentation and engagement. Like teenagers in high school, the sports industry is trying everything to engage with both avid and casual fans. If something shows promise, take it farther. If not, drop it. From Facebook’s forays into programming, to the number of direct-to-consumer offerings trying new business models, to even “re-imagining football,” the talk at the 2018 Sports Media and Technology conference was about testing new ideas and placing small bets. We expect to hear more on that today.

WHERE’S THE TECH SPENDING?: Following up on SBJ’s package this week examining when tech companies will start spending on sports, Facebook’s Peter Hutton on the opening panel talked about his company’s strategy: “There are so many opportunities across not just Facebook, but Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus. The real challenge is to prioritize, because there are so many different things that the sports industry can benefit from across that range of platforms.” Hutton said all the major social media giants are in a stage of “experimentation.”

THE WHITE ALBUM: The UFC’s Dana White and CBS’ Jim Rome have a long history that was clearly evident during a 30-minute interview/sparring session that kept the afternoon lively. White was forceful, light-hearted, convincing and introspective as he talked about building the UFC and his continued goals for the organization. Few speakers are in such command as White, who opened up about everything from the likely punishments of Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov after their melee in Las Vegas, to his depression following the sale of the UFC to Endeavor, to why it’s human instinct to appreciate fighting.

Among his comments:

On the visceral impact of the UFC: “We are in the ‘Holy Shit’ business.”

On his rivalry with boxing promoter Bob Arum: “He did his thing. His time is up.”

On Floyd Mayweather’s reputation among other fighters: “Everyone wants to see Floyd beat up. Everybody.”

After Rome asked if White is staying in the sport for the money and said, “Greed is good.”: “I don’t know about greed. It’s about kicking ass. There is a difference.”

WAIT, DID WE JUST SEE THAT?: We have been doing conferences at SBJ for more than 15 years, and few speakers were as free-flowing and outspoken as former NFL tight end Martellus Bennett. He clearly enjoys his life as a content producer and storyteller, and he freely says what’s on his mind. Many in the audience didn’t know how anyone could follow Dana White, but Bennett had the audience in the final session of the day.

Quick hits:

Asked if he felt he ever needed to get team or league approval for his publicity and content initiatives: “I am not worried about the league. But the league doesn’t care about me.”

On his plans for more storytelling: “Some people call me the black Walt Disney.”

WITH A LITTLE LUCK: XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck said there are several reasons he decided to join WWE founder and CEO Vince McMahon’s effort to launch a new spring football league, including the fact that McMahon’s first try at the XFL was a dismal failure. “I like people who are self-aware enough to draw lessons from the past,” said Luck. A bigger factor, though, is the 40 million hard-core football fans that the new XFL believes are hungering for more of the game than they get in the fall and winter. Luck: “They have this void in their lives. They would watch more NFL. They would watch more college ball. But the season ends.”

FOCUS ON RSNs: Ted Griggs of NBC Sports Regional Networks said that while sports might be “the last and best reality television,” the network still is trying to find new ways to engage with customers. NBC Sports Regional Networks yesterday relaunched its app, now called MyTeams, which focuses on individual teams rather than regions. “We want to engage with a fan 24-hours-a-day outside of just the game time, which is something we haven’t been able to do as well as we’d like,” Griggs said. “It’s about engaging with our customers and fans on the platform they choose to be on.” Here’s the coverage from the Daily.

ON TAP FOR TODAY: We’ll lead off at 9 a.m. with ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro talking to SBJ’s John Ourand about challenges and opportunities, then launch into panel discussions about reaching consumers and content creation. We’ll finish the day with NBC’s Peter King talking with Charlie Ebersol and Hines Ward about the launch next spring of the Alliance of American Football. 

“You always have to start with the consumer, and when you get a 30-second pre-roll, it’s terrible. Even 15 seconds is pretty terrible. We have to find the middle ground.” — Yahoo Sports Sarah Crennan

“There is some slippage and it is challenging, but I’m a big believer in the bundle and doing everything we can to support and reinforce it.” — NESN’s Sean McGrail 

“We have to crack the code on ensuring passwords aren’t shared. We’ve retained a company to look at it and try to figure out how to suppress it, but it’s a bit of a whack-a-mole situation.” — Spectrum Networks’ Dan Finnerty

“We are still in the game there.” — Griggs, on the company’s media rights negotiations with the Chicago Cubs

“Proceed with extreme caution.” Finnerty, offering advice to the Cubs, who are considering launching their own network

ROOFTOP MAGIC: More than 50 event speakers and special guests braved the October chill to enjoy a VIP reception at the nearby Rooftop Bar54, which offers some of the coolest views of the city’s skyline. Among those spotted: Prouskaer’s Rob Freeman and Frank Saviano finding their building along the west side of the skyline; AAF’s Ebersol (attired in an AAF satin jacket) and Ward, Courtside Ventures Deepen Parikh, XFL’s Luck, MVP Index’s Kyle Nelson, CBS Sports’ Jeff Gerttula and more. On the menu: Margarita flatbread, roasted shrimp and chorizo chimichurri, smoke salmon on bagel chips, herb roasted New York sirloin, and a slider station. Event sponsor NeuLion had postcards and fidget spinners for attendees. 

SEEN AND HEARD: Spotted having breakfast at Junior’s on Shubert Alley and 45th Street were newly minted XFL communications honcho Stephanie Rudnick, along with XFL media relations consultant Lou D’Ermilio and former ABC/NBC PR pro Adam Freifeld. And speaking of the XFL, when Luck left the stage after his one-on-one interview with SBJ’s Abe Madkour, he was buttonholed in the back of the room by longtime NFL PR chief Joe Browne…..Browne at his lunch table talked about his and his wife’s interest in the TV show “Friday Night Lights,” which led them to go to Texas years ago for a long weekend where they took in the high school football experience before a Seahawks-Cowboys game on Sunday. He also talked his memories of late Seahawks owner Paul Allen….NBC Sports’ Jim Bell reflecting on the sad passing of Patrick Baumann. Bell had dinner with Baumann just last week at the IOC meetings in Buenos Aires….Facebook’s Hutton has been in his gig for just a few months and hasn’t seen much more than the inside of a plane or train. He’s either traveling from his home in Paris to Facebook’s London office, or heading stateside to New York City or the company’s California headquarters. He plans to relocate to Cali in June … NBC Sports’ Greg Hughes talking to Griggs and Madkour about his trip to Baton Rouge last weekend for the Georgia-LSU football game.

SOCIAL ANIMALS: Thanks to everyone who helped keep the conversation going today. The hashtag #sbjsmt had 94 mentions and almost 900,000 impressions. Special thanks to frequent tweeters @ConvergenceTR, @Joefav, @urrutiadelpozo and @jasonmhendrix.

Here are a few tweets that caught our eye:
@danawhite: Thank you @jimrome and @sbjsbd
@JasonMHendrix: A great start to the day at #sbjsmt conference in NYC! Major players in the sports media industry sharing phenomenal knowledge!
@NadiaFlaim: My #SportsGirlLife is now in NY learning, validating, being inspired by @sbjsbd #sbjsmt conf. Sports Media & Tech is changing…how are we adapting or helping lead the transformation? Proud of the work @cbc @cbcsports does in the content space to remain #leader
@KirstenCorio: I’m not the biggest @ufc fan, but their numbers are ridiculously huge and enviable and @jimrome and @danawhite are super entertaining
@Matt77Rothman: I’m fortunate to have seen a lot influential people in sports speak over the years. NONE have been as candid, as entertaining or believed more in themselves/their product as Dana White
@chrislittmann: Great conversation. It’s striking how even across four sports and team vs league we are all tackling the same issues day-to-day for the most part
@ConvergenceTR: Word cloud for @sbjsmt panel discussions will be dominated by four words:
#sportsbiz #jargon

Follow all of our social media posts throughout the conference from our Twitter handle, @SBJSBD, and using the hashtag #sbjsmt.

LET’S GO TO THE VIDEO: We tried a little something new this week, posting video excerpts of some speakers and panels on our social media channels. You can check out all of the videos we posted, plus a few extras that we didn’t post on social media, by visiting our new SBJ YouTube page.

YOUR THOUGHTS MATTER: If you’re in the room today, we hope you’ll contribute to the conversation. You can send questions to our session moderators by using the SMT app or by texting SBJSBD to 22-333.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: All the information you need about the conference — agenda, speakers, venue, etc. — can be found in the conference app.

BEHIND THE SCENES: We’ve got student volunteers helping us for this event from Columbia, San Diego State, Rochester, Manhattanville and Central Florida. Be sure to say hello when you check in.

Closer Look: The 2018 Game Changers conference

By Abe Madkour and Ross Nethery

Enthusiasm. Networking. Great storytelling and plenty of information about business, hiring and personal growth. If you weren’t there last Wednesday, that was the vibe at the sixth edition of our Game Changers conference. More than 350 people crowded the ballroom of the Crowne Plaza Times Square in New York City for the event, starting the day with a breakfast focused on career development, leading to a noon ceremony where we brought members of the 2018 class on stage for an award presentation, and ending with the traditional cocktail and networking reception.

One thing about this conference – it’s consistent. Our honorees and attendees gave us what we’ve come to expect from this group. They start early, stay late and are never shy about telling panel members (and event organizers!) what they think. And, unfortunately, not enough men are in attendance to learn from the speakers and guests. 

Game Changers came one day after SBJ hosted its 2nd annual Diversity and Inclusion Seminar. This featured 13 leaders in the D&I space meeting for more than two hours, where conversation touched on areas of progress and challenges in D&I, and ways the group could work collaboratively to play a leadership role. This came after SBJ published its first-ever issue focused on diversity and inclusion in sports.  If you would like to learn more about this initiative, let us know.


THIS YEAR’S CLASS: One of the highlights of the conference each year is the recognition of the newly named class of Game Changers. We had 29 of the 35 members of the class of 2018 at the ceremony to accept their awards. If you haven’t already, check out the stories of these amazing leaders.

AN AMAZING JOURNEY: We’ve rarely seen a speaker more popular than Cathy Lanier, who had everyone buzzing with her candid story of dropping out of high school, then eventually becoming the chief of police in Washington, D.C., and, now, the NFL’s chief of security. As she said: “Poverty is a motivator.” And here’s another of our favorite Lanier quotes: “Every time you get promoted, there are less idiots to tell you what to do.” Finally, the number of interviews she sat through to get the NFL job: 16. Lanier followed her appearance at Game Changers by testifying on Thursday in front of the U.S. Senate about the greatest threats to the league’s safety. Two of the items on her agenda were drones and autonomous vehicles. “Because of technology, things change so much faster now,” said Lanier. “Things are so difficult to predict. People ask what keeps me up at night -- it’s the speed of change.” Honest, funny and with a lack of pretense, Lanier is someone you want to hear speak.

CREATING A PEOPLE-FIRST CULTURE: VaynerMedia’s chief heart officer, Claude Silver, offered a strong tale of creating culture and an open, empathy-driven workplace environment. The turning point that took her from being a bratty kid to a caring leader came after a 93-day Outward Bound trip during which, she fully admitted, she needed to “get her ass kicked.” It changed her life. “It’s where I learned to put others first,” she said. Silver gives a calm, cool presentation of being an “emotional optimist” who sees the ROI of productive and positive cultures. “We have forgotten to be human at work and forgotten how to treat each other well,” she said. “We treat each other like robots. The soil of strong teams begins with a connection, which leads to trust, which leads to empathy.”

FACING THE ISSUE HEAD ON: Jo Ann Ross, CBS’ top ad sales exec, kicked off the conference on the main stage knowing that she would be asked about the sexual harassment charges against former network CEO Les Moonves, someone she publicly has supported and described as a mentor. Ross didn’t shy away from the topic, and said she is “grappling with how a person could be one way with someone and be totally different with someone else.” Ross said she never went through the kind of harassment that was described by six women and led Moonves to step down. “That’s not what I experienced,” she said. “It doesn’t lessen what’s going on or the pain of these women. They are very, very brave and their voices need to be heard.” Ross has worked at CBS for 26 years.

JUST GET THEM IN THE DOOR: WNBA COO Ann Rodriguez told the crowd that her league is leading the charge in shifting the way fans perceive women’s sports. Rodriguez raved about the atmosphere at the first two WNBA Finals games in Seattle and said she met “first-time fans there who lost their mind and can’t wait to go back." Rodriguez: "When people actually get in the building and experience the product, they become really impassioned and excited by it.”

READY FOR BROADWAY?: Ten of the most entertaining minutes of the day came when Connecticut Sun F and WNBPA VP Chiney Ogwumike appeared onstage with WNBPA Exec Dir Terri Jackson and, amazingly, made the league’s upcoming CBA negotiations, dare we say, entertaining? In a well-rehearsed, well-timed and funny presentation, the pair described life in the WNBA and talked about how players will have the opportunity to improve their lives and careers, and how they are willing to go to great lengths to do that. Jackson: “We’re going to come prepared to do war if necessary.” The current CBA is set to expire in ’21, but includes an opt-out for the WNBPA after the ’19 season.

THE MEDIA CHALLENGE: Boston-based WBUR-FM & NPR Sports & Society reporter Shira Springer was a guest moderator and opened her panel by talking about why she believes women’s sports faces obstacles in getting media coverage. One issue, she said, is the “systemic part of things, the logistical part that is who’s deciding what coverage is out there, how the newsrooms are structured.” She cited a survey done a couple of years ago in which AP sports editors found that 90% of sports editors across the nation were white males who were less likely to cover women’s sports as extensively as men’s sports. The other issue is cultural. Springer, “What we value and how we value women’s sports is not where it should be, which is causing a lot of bad decision-making about that coverage.” Springer is a new columnist for Sports Business Journal. Check out her SBJ debut.


MLS Commissioner Don Garber said there was a moment about 15 years ago when the league realized that it needed to make diversity within its own exec ranks a business priority. “We were a league that was about representing the hopes and dreams of diverse communities and players, and we had a bunch of white men making all the rules -- it didn’t make sense to me,” Garber said. While MLS has made strides in this department, Garber said the global soccer game "has a long way to go.” He referenced a quote from former FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who said the women’s game would be more popular if the players wore shorter shorts. “We as an industry have done a better job,” Garber said, “but I think we’re in the third chapter of a 10-chapter book.”

SPEAK UP!: During our career breakfast, Minnesota Vikings COO Kevin Warren said he becomes frustrated sometimes when women on his staff fail to speak up during meetings. “I’d leave a meeting and there would be five text messages or emails asking, ‘What about this and what about that?’” he said. “I told them they had to speak up. Share your ideas and speak up.” NYRR SVP Ronnie Tucker encouraged women sitting in work meetings not to look for a small seat in the corner of the table, which she believes too many are prone to do. “Sit in the middle of the table,” she said, “because your voice is important.” Tucker also suggested every attendee of Game Changers make it a point to read Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends Report.  “Yes, it’s over 200 pages,” said Tucker, “but download it and read it and you’ll be well-prepared because of it.”


“We are not a cause. We are a mission-purpose business to inspire women.” — WNBA’s Rodriguez

“Women’s sports have never been better and it’s worthy of attention. Cracking through the old code is a difficult thing. You can’t tell me the story lines that are happening in women’s sports aren’t just as good as men’s sports.” — NBA/WNBA Exec VP/Communications Mike Bass

“We should be covering her.” — The AP’s Mike Giarrusso, who called swimmer Katie Ledecky one of the best stories in sports.

“I feel very good about the industry.” — LPGA Tour’s Jon Podany, on the state of women’s sports.   

“When do we get to where we don’t have a conference like this? We don’t have a conference like this for men.” — Garber, on the progress of diversity and inclusion in sports.

PREGAME SHOW: CSM LeadDog and SBJ celebrated the third year of the Mentoring Challenge at a reception the night before the conference. The Mentoring Challenge pairs women who are early in their careers with women executives from the ranks of our Game Changers honorees for a yearlong mentorship program. Mentors and mentees from the first two years of the program, plus this year’s group (see below) were hosted at CSM LeadDog’s rooftop office on 9th Avenue. Speakers included CSM LeadDog’s Dan Mannix and Karen Ashnault, SBJ’s Abe Madkour and Mary Wittenberg, former head of the New York Road Runners and Virgin Sport. With a menu of hors d’oeuvres and a table spread, plus a selection of local beer and wine, attendees enjoyed live music throughout the evening. Wittenberg talked about her career path and the freedom she is now enjoying to figure out what comes next after her departure from Virgin. She encouraged attendees to “keep learning,” and to “never stop finding mentors.”

MENTORING CHALLENGE: Here are the mentees and mentors for 2018-19 Mentoring Challenge:

Christine Kindt (Miami Hurricanes) and Heidi Pellerano (Wasserman)

Katie Carew (GumGum Sports) and Susan Cohig (NHL)

Maggie Valerio (Charlotte Hornets) and Nzinga Shaw (Atlanta Hawks & Phillips Arena)

Emily Miller (NY Racing Association) and Hannah Gordon (San Francisco 49ers)

Amanda Archer (Nielsen Sports) and Lisa Murray (Octagon)

Kimberly Chinn (Up2Us Sports) and Michele Carr (NBA)

Jackie Chang (NBC Sports Group) and Michelle Wilson (WWE)

Leah Jenk (USOC) and Molly Mazzolini (Infinite Scale)

Macarena Aguirre Estalella (MAEducation/MAEsport) and Elizabeth DiLullo Brown (Little League International)

Giordanna Easley (Public Relations) and Jody Bennett (Bennett Advisors)

Carly Strauss (NBA) and Ashlee Huffman (CSM Sport & Entertainment)

Halle Wilf (NFL) and Donna Providenti (CSM LeadDog)

Alexandra Conte (New York Mets) and Karen Ashnault (CSM LeadDog)

Courtney Perdiue (NFL) and Mimi Griffin (MSG Promotions)

Kathryn Kolb (Madison Square Garden) and JoAn Scott (NCAA)

SOCIAL ANIMALS: Many thanks to everyone who contributed to the conversation on social channels. On Twitter alone there were about 300 posts using the conference hashtag.

Here are a few tweets that caught our eye:

@nycsf: A tremendous thanks to @sbjsbd for recognizing the importance of women in sports and orchestrating such a great conference. I am inspired as well as grateful for having the opportunity to meet a room full of great leaders (who happen to be women).

@domeally: Gamechanger Conference is where it’s at today! Celebrating phenomenal leaders in the sports industry.   Time well spent with Terri Jackson and Chiney Ogwumike from @TheWNBPA , my @NCAA family, and my @NASCAR family   #powerofsport @InstituteSSJ

@TeamSheIs: Great conversations happening today around how we elevate women’s sports at the @sbjsbd Game Changers conference. Great to see our partners at the @NWHL and @WNBA adding their voices to the discussion!

@thesoccerdon: Organizations that are more diverse make more-informed and better business decisions. Thank you @sbjsbd and @soccerkcarter for providing the opportunity today to discuss how we are making diversity and inclusion business imperatives at @MLS.

AN OUTSIDE VIEW: Read sports industry veteran Joe Favorito’s take from Game Changers: “From the WWE’s Stephanie McMahon, the WNBA’s Chiney Ogwumikeand many stops before and after, the value of advocating and growing through positive storytelling was a key takeaway.”

COMING SOON: Thanks for reading, let us know if we missed anything, and be sure to check out the event photos at We’ll see you in New York Oct. 16-17 for the NeuLion Sports Media & Technology conference.

From Beaver Creek Mountain: Seen and Heard at the Thought Leaders Retreat

LISTENING, LEARNING AND PLAYING IN BEAVER CREEK: The 2018 Thought Leaders retreat was a success in every respect, from the location to the speakers to the discussions, interactions and comaraderie displayed by our 130 attendees. This year’s retreat was purposefully a little hard to get to, but the mountain setting at the beautiful Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch on Beaver Creek Mountain in Colorado was conducive to the relaxation, learning and reflection that we so rarely have time for in our day-to-day lives. Most attendees were drawn from our classes of Forty Under 40, Game Changers and Champions honorees, but we also had a select group of high-level invitees. For several days this week, we took over the meeting rooms, restaurants, bars and outdoor seating areas of the hotel, where we visited, debated, ate, drank and enjoyed the cool mountain breezes.

WHAT WAS SAID: Thought Leaders is an off-the-record conference, but there were plenty of takeaways that were not proprietary and will give you a good idea of the quality of the discussions. Among the speakers who had everyone buzzing were two who did a good job pushing us out of our comfort zones, Verna Myers and Duncan Wardle. We put on a lot of events every year, and recruit a number of speakers, but we can’t recall speakers who generated as much positive feedback as these two.

BUILDING AN INCLUSIVE ENVIRONMENT: “Why We Miss Talent: How Unconscious Bias Derails Merit,” was the theme of the kickoff keynote by inclusion strategist and author Myers, who talked for an hour about how diversity and inclusion must work hand-in-hand in the workplace. With an engaging and dynamic presence, Myers stressed that “group-think is the enemy” when trying to improve workplace diversity and foster inclusion, and greater focus must be made to who is getting opportunities and whose voices are being ignored. She also delved deep into unconscious bias: “If you think you aren’t biased, you are less likely to see when you are. Even as good people, you have biases. Denial is the worst situation we can possibly have.” In addition, when asked about how employers should assess whether job candidates will fit into the corporate culture, she said, “When you hear ‘fit,’ your antenna should go up. ‘Fit’ is the word of the status quo.”   Every dinner conversation on Tuesday night hit on themes from Myers’ discussion earlAier in the day.

Among her points:

Inclusion is about intention and attention.
Diversity is about being “invited to the party”; inclusion is being “asked to dance.”
Bias is preventing us from being inclusive.

She ended with five takeaways to counter bias:
— Keep standards high
— Slow down decision making
— Test your assumptions
— Don’t use your mental list
— Interrupt bias when you see it

To learn more, visit her at

MORNING CREATIVITY WITH DUNCAN: Wardle kicked off day two of the retreat with an interactive and absorbing discussion on creativity and innovation in the workplace and as a mindset of today’s leaders. The former Disney executive had a charming, self-effacing style as he revealed some of the biggest barriers to creativity, and, in many cases, had attendees shaking their heads as his points hit home about the way their own workplaces stifle creativity. “Innovation was trending five years ago,” he said. “Now it’s about survival.” Among his points: There is a big difference between “to iterate” and “to innovate,” and one of the biggest barriers is time. He stressed, “Give people the time to innovate.” He also pointed to the transforming power of shifting “my idea” to “our idea” as one of the most powerful ways to inject new thinking into an organization. He had a fun group exercise that stressed not to respond to ideas with, “No, because….”,  but use “Yes, and….” Other takeaways: Be playful as leaders, think more about “what if?,” and talk to the “naïve experts” – people on the ground floor of your organization who have the closest contact with your customers. Most importantly, get out of your “river of thinking,” which keeps you thinking and acting the same way over time. Finally, he encouraged everyone in the room to think about “bravery.” Innovation, by it’s very nature, is about trying something new, so be prepared and open about the element of risk. Wardle’s 60-minute tour de force left the room excited, and he was generous with his time and ideas later in the day after the retreat had concluded. The consistent feedback on Wardle was that his keynote provided actual tools and tactics to employ in life and at work.  To learn more about him, follow him on Twitter @duncanjwardle.

ACTIONABLE INTEL: Conde Nast Entertainment’s Croi McNamara was peppered with questions during a 45-minute interview about the successful video strategy that she’s implemented at a company that has traditionally been known for the success of its consumer magazines. When McNamara asked the crowd how many were trying to grow their own video business, more than half the people in the room raised their hands. She then demonstrated how most companies overthink — and overspend — when it comes to producing video. Touting what she called a “light lift, low-fi” approach to content, McNamara showed examples of videos produced by Conde Nast using iPhones, limited lighting and only a few people. “We try to keep our core staff as small as possible,” she said, “and then freelance out as much as we can. One of the keys is to go as thin as you can, especially early on.” McNamara touted YouTube as a primary platform, because Google has the know-how to distribute video and consumers are used to finding it there. Other keys from McNamara: Be clear about your goal (is it revenue? audience reach?); create a format that you can use repeatedly; and be consistent. 

LEADERSHIP LESSONS: Last year, Tony Ponturo closed out the retreat by interviewing TV production legend David Hill. This year, it was Ponturo’s turn to be grilled, as SBJ/SBD’s Abe Madkour talked to the long-time sports business leader about career development and reinvention. Here’s some of what Ponturo had to say about what he’s learned and what he tries to pass on to others:

— Experience builds your confidence in yourself that you can do the job. If you speed through jobs quickly, but don’t stay in any of them long enough to get enough experience to build confidence, then you can become president of the company but still not have the confidence that you can do the job.
— Life is short. Don’t waste time with bad people or a bad environment.
— Leaderhip is not the job, the position or the title. Leadership is getting people to follow you because they believe in what you’re saying, they understand what your’re saying, and they know you’re down in the dirt with them and you walk the talk.
— Once you’re a leader, it’s 24/7. You’re always being observed. The team is always looking and thinking: Is it about us? Or is it about you?

SPEAKING OF REINVENTION: During a session on athletes as entrepreneurs, former NFL players Marques Colston (Saints) and Robert Smith (Vikings) talked about their careers since they left the playing field. Colston has become an investor, mostly in sports technology companies. “It all leans on leveraging playing 10 years at the highest level and having access to a lot of resources and opportunities,” he said. “I started to lay the foundation about halfway through my career. I was fortunate to have some really good advisors.” Smith is founder and CEO of Fan Health Network. “The seed was really planted when I was a young child, with my interest in science and medicine,” he said. “I thought I wanted to be a doctor when I was a kid. With Fan Health network we’re using sports and celebrity passion to drive up engagement rates in corporate wellness programs, and, in turn, to drive down health care costs.” Fan Health Network has a new deal with the NFLPA that will allow it to use players in corporate wellness challenges and other initiatives.

GROUP THINK: The retreat ended with a one-hour group discussion facilitated by CSM LeadDog’s Dave Mingey and Madkour. Most of the discussion focused on opportunities, challenges and unforeseen issues related to legalized sports gambling in the U.S., but there was also ideas offered about ways to increase diversity and inclusion in sports. The session ended with discussion on topics, format and content for next year’s retreat, and future event locations.

WORK HARD, THINK HARD, PLAY HARD: Attendees took full advantage of the beautiful surroundings and ample recreational opportunies in the Beaver Creek area. There was a long list of planned activities to take advantage of, from the traditional golf and tennis outings to art lessons (the aptly named “Painting & Pinot” session), a Jeep tour that went about 9,000 feet up into a wilderness area, a sporting clay shoot and a three-mile mountain hike that went up more than 8,000 feet. Oddly enough, while the hikers were told to watch out for black bears, the only one spotted was on the golf course.

One of the highlights of the annual dinner is always the award presentation from the day’s activities. After a cocktail reception and a meal that included leg of lamb, sauteed shrimp, herbed chicken breast and skirt steak, we had a fun time handing out prizes to this years winners. In tennis: Dan Mannix, Steve Lauletta, Craig Karmazin, Eric Guthoff, Ross Meltzer, Clay Walker and Michelle Berg; in golf: Todd Fleming, Tom Proebstle, Josh Kritzler, Brendan Moynihan, Manny Rodriguez, Dave Mingey and Andrea Davis; in sporting clays: YuChiang Cheng, Brent Schoeb, Gary Gertzog, Justin Wood and Derek Aframe; in painting and pinot: Maria Fleming and Sarah Braham; in the wilderness hike: AJ Maestas, Teri Patterson Smith, Miheer Walavalkar and Jennifer Carper; on the Jeep tour: Rebekah Scholvin; and, in a drawing for those who had the skip the outings: Danielle Maged. Among the prizes were gift cards, golf balls and Yeti tumblers courtesy of event sponsor Winstead.

ADVENTURES IN TRAVEL: With an event held at a remote resort, there are always travel issues.  But Mannix and some of his colleagues from CSM LeadDog took that to the extreme. In trying to get to Beaver Creek, the CSM LeadDog team first sat on the ground for hours in San Francisco, where they had been at the Rugby 7s tournament, then were diverted because of weather to Salt Lake City. After they finally arrived in Denver late Tuesday night, they headed for the hotel, only to be stopped five miles short by a rock slide that took more than an hour to clear. We didn’t give out a prize for most difficult road to the retreat, but if we had, Mannix and his team would have been strong contenders.  Leaving the event on Wednesday also proved challenging, as the main flight out of Eagle Vail was cancelled, leaving many, including Fleming and his wife, Maria, Kern Egan, Nick Carey and Will Pleasants to get rental cars and get to Denver for flights back home.

SPOTTED: As noted, it would be impossible to offer sightings of everyone on the grounds over the two days, but here are a few. Grace Blue’s Eric Guthoff sitting at one of the long tables at the lobby before 7 a.m. on Tuesday trying to get in some early work….. Courtside Ventures’ Deepen Parikh hitting the gym Tuesday for a morning workout…Wells Fargo’s Carey woke early Tuesday to take a 3 ½ mile climb up the mountain and saw two bears …. Engine Shop’s Carper got in a six-mile climb on Monday before her three-mile hike on Tuesday… Kudos to a lean Bernie Mullin, who has dropped more than 40 pounds and is continuing his healthy habits to hit his ideal playing weight … Indy Racing League’s Rod Davis walking down from a morning hike at 7:45 a.m. on a beautiful Wednesday morning … Even after a fun group dinner, the gym was active on Wednesday morning, with MSG’s Jordan Solomon, CSM Lead Dog’s Matt Grandis and Live Like’s Walavalkar all getting in workouts… Even after a nearly two-hour hike, the NFLPA’s Ahmad Nassar still found time to ride hard on the exercise bike before dinner ….  Madkour, Lauletta and SBJ’s Ross Nethery took advantage of Monday afternoon to hit some tennis balls. The former college tennis player Lauletta was the best of the bunch … A group put together by Maestas included up to 14 people sharing tapas at dinner on Monday night.

THANKS TO OUR SPONSORS: We couldn’t have pulled off the retreat without the support of Winstead, CSM LeadDog, UCHealth, NFLPA and MGM Resorts International.

If you’re interested to know more about next year’s event or have questions, thoughts or comments, send a note to Abe Madkour ( or Ross Nethery (  Have a great weekend!

Live from Detroit: Sports Facilities and Franchises

By Abe Madkour and Ross Nethery

What keeps sports execs awake … Embracing change  … Supporting player activism … What’s Harbaugh really like?

We transitioned on Wednesday from the AXS Ticketing Symposium to the 2018 Sports Facilities and Franchises conference, with about 350 people at the Westin Book Cadillac in Detroit focused on issues related to team and venue management. We started off the day by talking to a group of high-level executives about what keeps them up at night. Among the things they’re worried about:

Predictability: “It just seems that the same teams are winning at the event of every year,” said the Blazers’ Chris McGowan. “Ultimately, that’s not great for our league.”

Gambling: “We’re used to betting parlors in our stadiums in England,” said Andy Appleby, former owner of Derby County FC. “But we do everything so much bigger and better in the U.S., so it’s going to be interesting to see all the different implications.”

A LESSON IN EMBRACING CHANGE: Former superagent Arn Tellem surprised many industry observers three years ago when he gave up a highly successful 35-year career in player representation to shift to management as vice chairman of the Pistons’ ownership group, Palace Sports & Entertainment. But in a featured interview on Wednesday, Tellem acknowledged that the shift came from a growing restlessness for more personal development and was accompanied by more than a little trepidation. “I didn’t know what I was going to do,” he said. “But that was a good thing. Anything was possible…I wanted the challenge of doing something else. I had a great run as an agent, but this was a chance to have a larger canvas. And I’ve made more friends in three years in Detroit than I did in 35 years in L.A., and that’s been the most rewarding part of this experience.”

STRONG WORDS: Tellem sharply rebuked critics of ongoing player protests during the National Anthem, and was quick to laud the community outreach of many players. “This idea that players should just shut up and dribble is offensive to me,” he said. “These voices need to be heard.”

MORE ON PLAYER ACTIVISM: Tellem wasn’t the only prominent exec to weigh in on players and the protests. The Dolphins have been one of the most talked-about teams when it comes to player activism. Some players have spoken out on the controversy surrounding protests during the National Anthem, and the team through Owner Stephen Ross’ RISE organization has also held several town hall events in the local community. Dolphins Vice Chair, President & CEO Tom Garfinkel said it is a “complicated issue,” but it is also “great that there are young men who are passionate about causes.” Garfinkel: “They’re going out there and starting a conversation that needs to be had.” Garfinkel said as long as players do things to bring people together, “those things are all positive.” Garfinkel: “When that conversation gets hijacked and it becomes about something else, all of a sudden it can become more divisive. … People tend to pick sides, and the truth is these things are much more in the middle.”

HOW LOW CAN YOU GO: So Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which has set the concessions world abuzz with its low prices, may be about to go even lower, at least on some items. “We’re still debating with our owner,” said Falcons president Rich McKay. The owner, Arthur Blank, wants to cut prices even more. We’ll see what happens next season, but McKay was clear that the team’s prices are key in getting fans into their seats earlier and spending more money when they get there.

NEXT UP — COMERICA: Tigers CEO Chris Ilitch said Comerica Park is the next logical target for modernization, now that Little Caesars Arena is up and running. While the goal has been to improve in some areas every year, “at some point we are going to take it ot the next level and really do something more meaningful, because we are seeing how people are reacting to the Little Caesars’ environment.”

READY FOR CHANGE: Colts Vice Chair Carlie Irsay-Gordon told attendees that, for her, the biggest challenge of working in the male-dominated NFL was “not the issue of being female.” “My cross to bear, with having this inheritance in my family, for me it’s been more about proving that, hey, ‘I can work as hard as anyone else,” she said. Irsay-Gordon noted the hardest part with diversity in leadership is “getting the right leaders in place, that understand that … the world is changing, it’s more global and more connected.” Irsay-Gordon: “I have three girls, so I have to create an environment where I would say, come work here. Having females on your team is essential. (Female NFL fans) are our best influencers. Go on Facebook and see the way they talk and share things. It’s powerful.”

A COMPETITIVE COACH? GO FIGURE: What’s it really like to work with Jim Harbaugh? Michigan AD Warde Manuel on Harbaugh: “He’s extremely competitive. You can’t half-step with information. Or not have your ducks in a row. One of the great things about great leaders, and particularly great coaches, is when they have that fire inside of them contantly. It motivates people. It motivates me.”

NUMBER OF THE DAY: 80 – Acres of land the Dolphins’ Garfinkel said the team bought to run its own sod farm.

NUMBER OF THE DAY, PART TWO: 1:00 a.m. Or maybe 10:30 p.m. On a lively panel to open the day, execs were asked what time they go to bed at night and what they watch on TV in the evenings. 76ers COO Lara Price said she’s in bed around 1:00 am, and watches anything forensics related. McGowan said he’s had World Cup fever and will watch any recap he can before hitting the bed at 11:00. Appleby took a different approach, noting he tapes golf tournaments and re-watches them before he goes to sleep at midnight. Garfinkel is in bed between 10:30-11:00 most nights and recently started watching “The Americans” with his wife.

NUMBER OF THE DAY, PART THREE: 5:00 a.m. The time Chris Ilitch wakes up every morning, wherever he is, to work out. “My father was in the Marines. He taught us discipline,” said the lean, 53-year old CEO, who also told the audience the importance of maintaining health and physical well-being.

TAKING IN A GAME: A couple of conference attendees headed 30 minutes north of Detroit to Utica, to take in a United Shore Professional Baseball League game at Jimmy John’s Field. The league was created in 2015 by Appleby and he proudly showed off the privately-financed $18 million ballpark that serves as the host park for the independent league’s four teams and holds about 4,000 people. Last night’s crowd was about 2,000 on a beautiful evening for baseball.

SEEN AND HEARD: Rossetti, the longtime Detroit architectural firm, held a reception at its offices on Wednesday night. “Let’s Celebrate Sports in Detroit” welcomed quite a few conference attendees to the company’s West Fort Street offices, where they took in a rooftop view of the city with drinks, sliders and an assortment of other foods. In attendance, among others, NBA TMBO's Matt Wolf, Rossetti's Jim Renne and a group from Infinite Scale including Matt Caldwell, Matthew Duncan and Brian Murphy, Staples Center’s Lee Zeidman; at 24 Grille, the hotel bar, MLS’ Ian Campbell and the Galaxy’s Mike Garvie.

“People are so busy right now, is the season ticket going to be around in five years? That scares me” – McGowan.

ON TAP FOR TODAY: It’s all about Little Caesars Arena, with buses leaving for the arena at 8:40 a.m. We’ll have a panel discussion featuring many of the people involved in the design and construction of the facility, followed by tours and a luncheon hosted by Delaware North.

SOCIAL ANIMALS: We appreciate everyone who kept the conversation going yesterday on social media, and, in particular, frequent tweeters Patrick Rishe (@drpatsportsbiz), Douglas Holtzman (@douglasholtzman), Patrick Ryan (@pryantexas), Jim Kadlecek (@jim_kadlecek), Jason Manglantay (@teamjmags) and Mark Gress Jr. (@@markgressjr). There were 153 original posts using the #SBJTix or #SBJSFF hashtags, drawing 1,158,000 impressions.

Among the tweets we liked:
@michaelasimps0n: Connectivity panel - 5G discussion *googles How soon can I purchase 5G everything*
@rachel_mydosh: Thank you @eventellect for providing me with the opportunity to attend the @sbjsbd @axs Ticketing Symposium. I have learned valuable information, met and create lifelong friendships, network with top level executives and created memories I will never forget
@ROSSETTIdesign: Shout out to @levyrestaurants during #SBJSFF @fordfield tour last night. F+B was outstanding!
@MarkGressJr: Great way to start day 2! Incredibly talented executive panel

OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Thanks to SBJ/SBD’s Eric Fisher, Terry Lefton, Mike Sunnucks and Josh Carpenter for helping with this email.

NEXT UP: We’ll take a break for a few weeks before our Thought Leaders Retreat on July 24-25 at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch at Beaver Creek. If you want to attend, or just learn more about the event, let us know. We hope to see you there.

Live from Detroit: The Ticketing Symposium

By Abe Madkour and Ross Nethery

Dan Gilbert and Chad Estis on corporate culture … Societal changes reshaping ticketing  … The privacy debate … Food, fun and Ford Field

About 350 people have descended on the Westin Book Cadillac in Detroit this week for the 2018 AXS Sports Facilities & Franchises and Ticketing Symposium. Those people can be forgiven if they thought their flights had mistakenly landed in Texas instead of Michigan, as many of us deplaned Monday and were slapped in the face by humidity and temperatures in the mid-90s. The weather cooled off Tuesday, though, just as the conference was heating up.

AXS CEO Bryan Perez kicked things off by laying the issues facing the industry, including social, generational and technological shifts.  He homed in on what it could mean for sports. Perez: “All these things string together to a single end, one that we believe is inevitable for our industry: The concept of revenue management built around the three pillars of channel, inventory and yield management. And the key here is they all must work together. Each piece must be a part of a unified strategy and execution. So when we discuss open distribution, we must ask, Are all channels created equal? Must the invetory be tailored to the channel and the fan? Or is it simply exposing your manifest to all comers? And if the inventory must be tailored to the channel, how can we achieve that without greater flexibility in seat classifications? Or are we doomed to a myriad of allocations leaving us with Swiss cheese in our manifests and hoping that we guessed right every single time on the seat, the price and the channel. Is the goal of yield management merely to mimic the secondary market? Or are some channels different than the secondary market and do customers use price as their sole decision factor? Great change demands great discussion, and we’ve certainly got that in store for you.”

With that mission statement in mind, we were off and running.

LESSONS IN LEADERSHIP: Cavs owner Dan Gilbert had plenty of people ready to go forth and conquer after a chat with SBJ’s Abe Madkour that focused on Gilbert’s development efforts in the city of Detroit, but also featured a heavy dose of business and life philosophy. Gilbert said he didn’t think at all about building a strong corporate culture when his company was a startup, but “over the years, I noticed: When you have more things to do than time to do them, if everyone in the organization doesn’t have the same belief system, then things are going to go wrong very quickly. You need to establish who you are, not just what you do.” Comparing sports to other businesses is impossible, Gilbert said: “Unlike any other business in the world, you can only affect the outcome three ways: the draft, which happens once a year; free agency, which happens for about three weeks; and trading players. The control you have to improve your products versus any other business, where you have 500 different ways, that becomes the frustration for entrepreneurs, who are so used to being able to change things quickly.”

BOOK CLUB SELECTIONS: After his appearance on stage, Gilbert had two books for attendees to take home. One covers what his companies are doing to make an impact in Detroit, while the other is a more straightforward and inspirational book of business learnings that includes many of the memos that Gilbert has sent to his employees over the years, covering such topics as “Ignore the noise,” “Responding with a sense of urgency is the ante to play,” and how “Innovation is rewarded. Execution is worshipped.”

THE ESTIS WAY: Chad Estis knows how to work a room and connect with people. The longtime Cowboys and Legends executive returned to part of his roots, as he started his successful career with the Detroit Pistons. He had gone on a run Tuesday morning and talked about the changes to the city before he gave a compelling presention on leadership and culture. Over 45 minutes, Estis shared his philosopy on seven longtime tenets: Career development; Make it fun; Team environment; Develop personal relationships; Over-communciate; Focus on talent; and, finally, recognizition. There were a number of interesting points made by Estis, but one element talked about later by conference attendees was his point of promoting his own people and being comfortable when they left the organization, even when his management colleagues didn’t want to lose talented people to other organziations. As he stated, he believed letting them move on to greater opportunity was the best thing for their career. Estis had a number of well-wishers and those looking to meet him after his session and had time for all of them.

THE PIZZA MAN: Little Caesars CEO Dave Scrivano struck a chord with his passion. He was practically jumping out of his chair when talking about the company he’s worked at for more than 15 years, the value of the naming-rights deal in Detroit for the Red Wings and Pistons arena, and how that deal has transformed the company. But at the cocktail reception afterward, more people talked about Scrivano’s story – from starting his career working for Dominos running a store on Long Island, to taking over regional stores for the chain before becoming the leader of Little Caesars in his late 30s.  He also talked about how he makes all employees work at a Little Caesars during one week every year.  He said it’s his favorite week of the year, putting on an apron and making pies.

NUMBER OF THE DAY: 65 – the number the Bucks’ Jamie Morningstar said the team has in its sales staff as it looks to ramp up business in a new arena. Longtime ticketing executive Rob Sine lauded the number as he noted on Twitter: “By comparision, it was 10 in 2000-2002 when I worked there.”

NUMBER OF THE DAY, PART TWO: 33% - The percentage of fans that the 76ers know the true identity of who attend a game at Wells Fargo Center, cited by the team’s Jake Reynolds. Asked what the figure would have been two years ago, he said, “In the teens.”

NUMBER OF THE DAY, PART THREE: 4,500 — That’s roughly the distance from Detroit to Hawaii, where Perez was vacationing as part of a celebration of his daughter’s completion of junior high school before leaving to attend the conference.

NUMBER OF THE DAY, PART FOUR: At least 1 — years, that is. That’s how long Len Komorowski, CEO of the Cavs and Quicken Loans Arena, thinks it will take Ohio to start deciding how to deal with sports gambling. “We believe it will ultimately happen,” he said, “but [Ohio] won’t be out front.” Among Cavs owner Gilbert’s holdings is Jack Entertainment, which operates casinos in Ohio and Michigan.

SOMEBODY’S WATCHING ME?: With all the publicity surrounded data leakages by Facebook and other companies, plus the EU’s big push to give consumers more control over their data, it’s no surprise that privacy rights were a big part of the discussion on Tuesday, even as ticketing leaders talked about ways to gather and use info about their fans and the people who visit their buildings. “About two-thirds of the people who come in, we don’t understand their habits,” said Reynolds. The NFL’s Robert Gallo echoed the importance of knowing your customer, and pointed to the service that such knowledge allows companies like Netflix and Amazon. Gallo said the NFL wants to know “what the fans are thinking before they even do.” Ticketmaster’s John Forese: “There’s no reason why they shouldn’t know exactly what you’re collecting, what you’re going to use it for, and if they want to opt out, they can.” The Cavaliers’ Brad Sims said he eventually wants to know every fan who enters the building, but was slightly more cautionary about how to reach that goal. “If you’re on an airline, they know 100 percent of the people on their flights,” he said. “We want to get to that 100 percent number, but hopefully it’s not a security issue that drives it.”

PRE-GAME WARMUPS: Title sponsor AXS held a VIP reception Monday evening at Roast, the Michael Symons steakhouse that is connected to the conference hotel. Among those hosting from AXS were Perez and Brian Peunic. The guest list included SBJ’s Madkour and Eric Fisher, IMG Learfield’s Sine, LA Kings’ Kelly Cheeseman, Staples Center’s Lee Zeidman and the NCAA’s Jared Kramer. On the menu: pulled pork fritters, crab cakes, meatballs, and slices of hanger steak, New York strip and ribeye.

FORD FIELD FOOD AND FUN: At the end of the day Tuesday, attendees took a short bus ride over to Ford Field to get a firsthand look at what a hundred million dollars of renovations will buy you. Madkour led a discussion about the project with the Lions’ Bill Hawker and Kelly Kozole, the stadium’s VP of operations, Todd Argust, and Rossetti’s Jim Renne. Attendees toured the facility before a reception sponsored by Levy. The menu included a seafood display of colossal shrimp, sea scallops and local line caught bass; Michigan grass-fed beef sliders; frisee and candied pork belly; pan search chicken milanese satay; and a carving station that offered smoked coffee rubbed rib roast, Detroit barbecue brisket and baby back ribs, and maple bourbon pork shanks.

“We’re no longer afraid to be first. We will look under every stone.” — NFL’s Gallo.
“If you ask our analytics team, they want one seat left in the building, because that means they priced it correctly.” — 76ers’ Reynolds.
“When we bring prospective franchisees into town and we bring them to the arena with our name on it, it really has an impact, and they say, ‘That is a world-class company.’” — Little Caesar’s Scrivano
“It is almost like the beginning of the internet.” — Gilbert on esports.

ON TAP FOR TODAY: We transition today from the Ticketing Symposium to the Sports Facilities & Franchises conference, and we’ll start with team presidents and C-level execs talking about what’s keeping them up at night, then hear interviews with the Pistons’ Arn Tellem, the Falcons’ Rich McKay, Ilitch Holdings’ Chris Ilitch, Michigan’s Warde Manuel and the Colts’ Carlie Irsay-Gordon. We’ll round out the day with discussions on venue security and fan experience.

CONFERENCE COORDINATES: We’re at the Westin Book Cadillac on Washington Boulevard. Registration, breakfast and exhibits open today at 7:30 a.m., and the conference starts at 8:30. You can find all the information you need on our conference app.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: If you’re in the room today, we hope you’ll contribute to the conversation. You can send questions to our session moderators by using the conference app or by texting ‘SBJSBD’ to 22-333 to join our session. If you are posting tweets or photos, be sure to use the conference hashtag: #SBJSFF.

SOCIAL ANIMALS: We appreciate everyone who kept the conversation going yesterday on social media, and, in particular, frequent tweeters Patrick Rishe (@drpatsportsbiz), Douglas Holtzman (@douglasholtzman), Patrick Ryan (@pryantexas), Jim Kadlecek (@jim_kadlecek), Jason Manglantay (@teamjmags) and Jeff Yocom (@jeffyocom). There were 93 original posts using the #SBJTix or #SBJSFF hashtags, drawing 785,000 impressions.

Among the tweets we liked:
@rachel_mydosh: Prepared to “be a sponge” at the @sbjsbd ticketing conference!
@channel1Media: Amazing leadership discussion led by @ChadEstis at the @sbjsbd in Detroit!!!
@PRyanTexas: Great panel. Many takeaways
Brad: treat fans consistently
Jake: understand the market
Jamie: educate your fans
Todd: learn then implement
@sportsdigita: Day 1 takeaways from Detroit:

  1. Data is king #Analytics
  2. Ticket landscape is changing #TicketingFramework
  3. Next Generation Sales Teams #Culture
  4. Game Day Experience #Fans

Can’t wait for Day 2!
@drpatsportsbiz: Great lesson in corporate culture/management: "If a company thinks they don't have a "culture", that means they do...they have a bad culture" quote from @cavs @QuickenLoans owner/CEO Dan Gilbert

OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Thanks to SBJ/SBD’s Fisher, Terry Lefton, Mike Sunnucks and Josh Carpenter for helping with this email. We’ll be back tomorrow morning with more from the conference.

VOLUNTEERS: A big thanks for volunteers from three schools who are helping us with this week’s program. Be sure to say hello to them when you pass by the check-in table. We’ve got students helping us this week from Western Michigan University, Central Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University.

Live from San Francisco: Wrapping up the Brand Engagement and Content Summit

By Abe Madkour and Ross Nethery

Esports has no rules, lots of confusion … DeAngelo Williams’ opens up on the NFL … What to do with all that data

Day 2 of the ’18 Intersport Brand Engagement and Content Summit was bookended by esports, with Cloud9’s Daniel Fiden leading off in a one-on-one interview with SBJ’s Ben Fischer, and a panel of experts taking an in-depth look at esports to close out the conference. Among the sessions in between was a deep dive into the the use of big data and analytics.

STARTUP MENTALITY: Fiden, who has never worked for a traditional sports organization, likened day-to-day life in esports with a tech startup. There’s a small team of people, he said, and the rules haven’t been written yet. Fiden said Cloud9 has to be willing to make mistakes because it has to move fast in every area. Fiden: “Moving slow is what kills us.” Cloud9 has about 75 players under contract, fewer than 30 people on its operational staff and three people based in London working on business development. It was a good way to open Day 2 of the conference, considering how much esports was included in the conversation on Day 1, including Intersport’s Shannon Dan saying that the story she is most interested in over the next 12 months is the development of esports. During the last panel of the day, panelists discussed whether esports has been able to start convincing non-endemic sponsors that it is a viable platform. Red Bull’s Travis Wannlund: “I look at it as more of, gaming and esports isn’t going mainstream, but mainstream is going to gaming and esports. The industry is still trying to figure things out. Already you have a bunch of non-endemics come into a space that is incredibly fast moving but also very complicated. But the energy is there.” The Warriors’ Hunter Leigh said the typical esports audience is, on one hand, “deeply suspicious of outsiders,” but at the same time “desperate for validation.” Nielsen’s Nicole Pike said her company views esports as an entity with an established audience, which “makes it great for brands,” but added that from a broadcast standpoint, esports is “extremely confusing.” Pike cited the many broadcast platforms and how a large portion of esports content “lives on for days and days.” Pike: “We have to think about those things to make sure we’re not selling esports short.”

SPEAKING HIS MIND: Every conference features a few speakers who can ignite the crowd. On Day 1, it was author and Stanford professor Jennifer Aakar, who talked about building compelling stories on every level, from individuals to business. On Day 2, former NFL running back DeAngelo Williams had plenty of compelling stories of his own. Williams was outspoken about his career, his causes, and his love-hate relationship with the NFL. Of his efforts to raise breast cancer awareness during his 11-year NFL career, he said: “I helped start the pink in the NFL. I don’t take full credit because Roger Goodell doesn’t let us do that.” On the other hand, he said, the NFL is a platform that you can’t get anywhere else. “It’s stood the test of time,” said Williams, “and people will always pay attention to it.” He also talked about his use of social media, where he has drawn plenty of blowback for his criticism of Peyton Manning (on the day of Manning’s retirement, no less) and the Patriots. “All these people putting me down have never played a football game,” he said. “But I took that bump on the chin.” And while he now playfully trolls people who come after him on social media, he admitted that he’s more cautious online these days. “It’s amazing how social media has changed the landscape of who you are,” he said. “I’m still afraid of it. Social media brings down people every day.”

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?: One of the questions that came up during our panel discussion on big data was, What do you do with all of it? There’s so much data being collected that there’s a real danger of being so overwhelmed by it that you don’t use it effectively. “We’re constantly thinking about what we know about the people we’re trying to talk to,” said Mastercard’s Michael Goldstein. “There’s plenty of data out there, but you need to find what works for you and then you have to find how you can present that to your CMO. He wants three slides, not a thousand pages.” Added Intel’s Sandra Lopez: “Technology has evolved at an accelerated rate and everything now is connected. The internet user is your fan and consumer. They’re not going away, but the sports industry is competing with shared time. Consumers want snappable content. They want highlights. But how do we customize that for everyone? How do we leverage the content that we’re capturing? You need a lot of that data to make insights.”

“Authentic. … and no downside to being more closely aligned to Bob Iger.” — ESPN’s Rob Temple, on new ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro.

“Do nothing.” — Williams, on how the NFL should have handled the controversy over protests during the national anthem.

“Wealth of information can never replace a sound strategy.” — PepsiCo’s Justin Toman

SOCIAL ANIMALS: We appreciate everyone who kept the conversation going yesterday on social media. The #sbjengage hashtag was used in 201 original posts, generating 623,448 impressions.

Among the tweets we liked:
@JenRottenberg: Listening to fellow @Nickelback fan @DeAngeloRB being interviewed at #SBJEngage - this guy is so genuine and hilarious, I am now a fan!
@tylerpistoia: Fantastic conversation with @DeAngeloRB at the @sbjsbd Brand Engagement & Content Summit. Thank you for your message.
@marlonjackson: We are talking BIG DATA at @sbjsbd today. Don't continue to do what you do without KPI's in place to achieve measurable success.
@dirtyrobber: Our panels are the best because they have prizes. Moderator Andy Dolich tosses a ball into the crowd at #SBJEngage while our CEO Chris Uettwiller + National Geographic’s Brendan Ripp talk @Nike + #Breaking2.
@IntersportBuzz: "We are just on the touch point where big data changes the way we activate sports." - @SQuilly3, Executive Director, Sports Marketing & Sponsorships at @KPMG_US
@GiselleAristy: "Data is the new oil, without refining it it's just crude" Sandra Lopez from @intel

OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Thanks to SBJ/SBD’s Thomas Leary for helping with this email.

SEE YOU IN DETROIT: That’s a wrap from San Francisco. Next up: The Sports Facilities & Franchises and Ticketing Symposium in Detroit. We hope to see you there!

Live from San Francisco: The Brand Engagement and Content Summit

By Abe Madkour and Ross Nethery

Paying it forward … Esports disrupts again … Placing your bets … Fun at the ballpark

Intersport CEO Charlie Besser opened the 7th annual Intersport Brand Engagement and Content Summit by encouraging attendees to pay it forward. “In every instance of paying it forward, there is a very positive outcome,” he said. “If you do something nice for someone and don’t expect anything in return, you will be shocked at how good it feels and the positive results.” He also stressed the importance of “saying yes” in day-to-day business interactions. “Talk about saying yes,” he said. “Start with yes. We over-weight risk. Instead, talk about, ‘How am I going to make it work?” He ended by encouraging attendees, “Live a big life. Be big. Do great things!”

ESPORTS AND DISRUPTION: SBJ/SBD’s Terry Lefton opened the conference with a panel on disruption, and challenged the panelists as to whether there was any true disruption going on in the sports industry. One answer: Immortals President Ari Segal said esports is naturally disruptive, but that “what I hear from brands is, How can esports give us a recognizable entry point? Be an enabler, rather than a disruptor.” Segal’s comments led into a larger discussion about esports that will be continued today (see below). All of which led SBJ’s own Ben Fischer to tweet out: “It’s becoming common: esports takes over conference panels meant to be about all sports in general. @SFGiantsJason Pearl says everyone is asking themselves “How do we do what Ari is doing?” (he’s next to @Immortals COO @arisegal)”

HEY, WATSON, WHO’S GOING TO WIN?: Gambling was another topic that came up throughout the day. On the opening panel, Pearl said he considers it “great for the industry overall,” but added that MLB has taken a hands-off approach so far and now “has to figure out ways to embrace it.” Segal added, “To me, baseball has the opportunity to benefit most disproportionately. It’s perfect as a second screen experience, the fact that you can consume multiple games at one time. There are breaks in the action to place bets. The thing about baseball that has maybe held it back a little bit for young people in the last 10 years actually makes it super attractive for young people as a sports betting ecosystem in the next ten.” During an interview later in the morning, IBM’s Elizabeth O’Brien said people have been asking for years when Watson, the company’s brand of artificial intelligence, would start predicting winners. “We’ve identified trends, we’ve identified patterns, and we’ve identified key variables based on those,” she said. “But we’ve never said, ‘This person is going to win.’ As a brand, I don’t see us quickly moving towards gambling. Our values and our brand are here to solve business problems, not to make people win in Vegas.”

THE POWER OF STORIES: We’ve heard for some time just how strong a speaker Dr. Jennifer Aaker is, and the marketing professor from the Stanford Graduate School of Business had a full ballroom both engaged and actively participating during her 40-minute address. She focused on the art of storytelling and remarked that those with the best stories make the best leaders. She outlined how she has students use six-word stories in an effort to learn more about them. She gave some examples from her students, such as “Not quite. Aspire to be great.” Or “Married the wrong girl. Fixed it.” And “Easy to love. Hard to understand.” In one fun exercise, she asked everyone in the room to try it and asked for volunteers to share them. Afterward, when people shared what they learned from the exercise, one remarked from the audience, “You can learn a lot about people with just a small amount of information.”  Aakar has spoken to the NBA league office and if you get a chance to hear her, it’s worth it.

REWARDS PROGRAM: A pilot program started by Anheuser-Busch InBev earlier this year that offers properties bonuses if they meet or exceed specified on and off-field criteria now includes about 20 teams, said A-B InBev’s Joao Cheuri, shortly after finishing a presentation on stage.“Every team has different KPIs, so they are selecting different measures on which to base their incentives, but it’s been good so far,” he said. “We’re not forcing these on anyone, but we are trying to put them in all of our sports and entertainment deals as they are renewed. It’s getting to be an easier conversation the more we do.”

Earlier, Cheuri had said he hopes to convert A-B InBev’s entire American sports and entertainment sponsorship portfolio to incentive/reward deals within three to four years. When A-B first spoke publicly of the program in April, four teams were signed up. 

YOU CAN’T FIGHT CITY HALL: With the warriors up 2-0 and the team heading to Cleveland for game 3 on Wednesday, Warriors president Rick Welts still found time to come and sit on a panel Tuesday morning. We assume that was the best part of his morning, because after he left the conference he headed to San Francisco City Hall, where he had yet another hearing in front of a city government commission about signage at the Chase Center, which is now over halfway built. On stage, he said somewhat diplomatically of the city’s intense regulatory bureaucracy: “There’s never been a facility like this in San Francisco, and having gone through what I’ve gone through in the last five years, I understand why. It’s impossible. This is a unique city with a unique perspective." This morning, he’ll be on a private flight with team owner Joe Lacob to Cleveland, where he’ll stay through Game 4 of the NBA Finals. “We’ve grown pretty fond of [Cleveland],” he said. “This will be our seventh trip, in four consecutive Junes. We’d love not to have an eighth."

FOOD, BEER, BASEBALL ... WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?: Conference attendees enjoyed a night at the ballpark, where they saw the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the hometown San Francisco Giants 3-2. Many conference attendees mingled in the Boardroom A suite just beyond left field during a sunny, yet windy night at AT&T Park. Spotted: Giants President Larry Baer, Mario Alioto, Besser, ESPN’s Rob Temple, Intersport’s Brian Graybill, Jason Langwell, Shannon Dan and Mark Adamle, among others, SBJ/SBD’s Abe Madkour, Facebook’s Kevin Cote, Sina Sports’ Sam Li, UCHealth’s Manny Rodriguez, NASCAR’s Evan Parker. Guests munched on hot dogs, wings, mac and cheese, sandwich wraps and cheese boards, along with dessert … Just down the hall, AT&T hosted guests in its suite, including Shizuka Suzuki, the company’s assistant vice president for corporate sponsorships. Also at the game, one of Giants’ starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner’s earliest strikeout victims: SBJ/SBD’s own Thomas Leary. Bumgarner, who made his season debut last night, sent Leary packing when their high school teams faced each other in North Carolina back in the day. In Thomas’ defense, he was a only a sophomore, facing the senior Bumgarner who would go 10th in the draft just a few months later.

PRE-GAME WARMUPS: Thanks to event sponsor Visa for hosting a ticket pick-up and welcome reception before the game.

BEST USE OF VIDEO FOR THE DAY: Two sessions in the afternoon showcased some fun new creatives. Visa’s Andrew Cohen showed how the brand is using Zlatan Ibrahimovic in its World Cup creative, and Heineken’s Felix Palau showed off fun, breezy ads showing how the brand is using soccer in its creative, as well as a branded content piece it did with LAFC and the “Late, Late Show with James Corden.” If you haven’t seen it check out parts of it here.

TWO-RING CIRCUS: Two of our opening panelists dressed up for the occasion by donning their championship rings. Giants marketer Pearl sported a large World Series ring from the team’s 2014 championship, while Avaya’s Andy Steen was wearing a somewhat more understated piece of jewelry: the feminine version of the championship ring the San Francisco 49ers won 23 years ago in Super Bowl XXIX. Pearl has three rings, courtesy of the Giants success of late. He said he has two in a vault and one he keeps at home for special occasions. “I am never sure when that is, but this seemed like the right day to break it out.” Steen had much the same feeling. “I can’t remember the last time I wore it,” she said, “and it took me a while to find it, but today just seemed like the perfect occasion.” Steen earned her ring while working as entertainment director for the 49ers. And, by the way, Welts was wearing one of his championship rings during his panel, as well.

BRENNAN’S JOURNEY: During his opening remarks, Besser told attendees about his son, Brennan, who is a basketball walk-on at Duke and will spend his summer biking, walking and running from Seattle to New York to raise awareness and money for his charitable foundation. Brennan’s roughly 70-day journey -- called "Walk On! America –was inspired by his special needs older sister, Jacqueline. Brennan is doing a basketball clinic in each city he stops in, and Charlie said in his son’s 17th day, he just left Montana and entered into South Dakota. You can read more about Brennan’s journey here and here.

NUMBERS GAME: How popular is Steph Curry? Youth sports organizations in the Bay Area have given up on deciding who gets to wear Curry’s No. 30 by simply getting rid of jerseys with those digits. “Every kid in the Bay Area wanted to wear No. 30, and not having a No. 30 was easier than figuring out what kid got to wear No. 30,” Welts said. “Little league after little league has made that decision.”

DRESS CODES: How should the esports crowd dress when mixing with traditional sports types? Should they dress to fit in, or play the part of the laid back counterculture gamer? Immortals’ Segal and Cloud9 President Dan Fiden came to two very different conclusions. Segal rocked a tie on the opening panel today, matching the other three men on the stage. Fiden, who will take the stage Wednesday, attended the conference in jeans, Chuck Taylors and an untucked casual buttoned shirt.

SEEN AND HEARD: A long line of attendees waited to meet with Welts after his session, and Welts stayed until he greeted them all. …. Besser stressed to Madkour the value in the book “Younger Next Year,” a health advice book about the need to get stronger as one ages….Spotted: Besser, Nielsen Sports’ Michael Lynch and Turnkey Sports’ Tony Ponturo chatting… On primary election day in California, the Giants’ Pearl showed up in the green room with a red “I Voted” sticker. It was one of the few such stickers that we saw in the room. Attendees from California likely were keeping an attentive eye on Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s bid to become governor of the state. Newsom has been a strong supporter of both the Warriors and the Giants.

“I’d take one relationship over a million impressions.” —  Immortals’ Segal.

“Building content with the audience in mind is much more important than what will get us the quickest deal.” — NASCAR’s Evan Parker

ON TAP FOR TODAY: We’ll spend time this morning talking about esports, starting with Cloud9’s Fiden and ending the conference with an in-depth look at esports that will include the Warriors’ Hunter Leigh, Red Bull’s Travis Wannlund and Twitch’s Kristen Salvatore. In between are sessions on Nike’s Breaking2 campaign and Gatorade’s #TheDebut, and a panel on big data and analytics.

CONFERENCE COORDINATES: We’re at the Hotel Nikko on Mason Street, a unique San Francisco venue just a couple of blocks from Union Square. Registration and exhibits open today at 8:00 a.m. PT, and the conference starts at 9:00. You can find all the information you need on our conference app.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: If you’re in the room today, we hope you’ll contribute to the conversation. You can send questions to our session moderators by using the Brand Engagement & Content Summit app or by texting ‘SBJSBD’ to 22-333 to join our session. If you are posting tweets or photos, be sure to use the conference hashtag: #SBJEngage.

SOCIAL ANIMALS: We appreciate everyone who kept the conversation going yesterday on social media, and, in particular, frequent tweeters Intersport (@IntersportBuzz), Leland Kim (@lelandkim), Brant Feldman (@AGMSports), Women in Sports Tech (@womensportstech) and Marlon Jackson (@marlonjackson). There were 165 original posts using the #SBJEngage hashtag, drawing 997,600 impressions.

Among the tweets we like:
@marlonjackson: Charlie Besser made it very clear in his opening remarks at the @sbjsbd  conference. “Make a friend and follow up.” “Live a big life ... be bold!” Duly noted.
@dwaynegaulding: Listening to Tom Fox from @SanJoseEarthqua speak is so engaging for a guy like myself coming from the motorsports world!
@dustingeddis: Fascinating conversation around legalized gambling, professional teams and their sponsors participation - toeing the line of values vs monetizing
@MikeFHarrison: Great @sbjsbd interview with Frank Nakano of @Chase regarding partnerships with @TBLightning and @warriors!
@andydances: Loved being on the @sbjsbd #sports panel with this group of experts @arisegal Shiz Suzuki @ATT Tom Fox @SJEarthquakes. Had fun comparing championships rings with Jason Pearl @giants ring vs. SF 49ers Women's Super Bowl ring!

OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Thanks to SBJ/SBD’s Lefton, Fischer and Leary for helping with this email. We’ll be back tomorrow morning to wrap up the conference.

From LA Live: 2018 World Congress All-Access, Presented by Heritage Werks

By Abe Madkour and Ross Nethery

Disruption and diversity dominate day one … Sports Business 2025 kicks off day two … Michael Rubin and Jed York talk reinvention, followed by a look at the future of gaming … Forty Under 40 gala tonight….

Diversity and inclusion took center stage on Day 1 of the 2018 CAA World Congress of Sports, with panelists from start to finish weighing in on the progress that has been made in the sports industry, and the long road still ahead. Two of the founders of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements talked about what they hope will be accomplished as momentum continues to build. CAA’s Michelle Kydd Lee said, “This is an awkward conversation to have between genders, but that’s okay when we have a higher calling — a safer place for all of us.” CAA’s Christy Haubegger explained to the audience the nuances of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements: “MeToo is the notion of being hurt in some way by sexual violence — sexual abuse to sexual harassment. #TimesUp is a movement that’s about addressing the issues at the workplace so no one has to say ‘me, too.’” CAA’s Lisa Joseph Metelus, who led the discussion, said, “This is the infancy of the movement. We’d love to have as much help as possible because this is about creating a better world for all of us.”

Coca-Cola’s Andrew Davis said leaders in sports and entertainment have “a responsibility to be the bridge to unite this country,” and also made a business case for making diversity a priority. “You need an inclusive mindset if you want to grow,” he said, adding that the best way to do that is to look at underserved markets and emerging consumers. “Uniqueness plus belonging equals inclusivity,” said Davis. “People are wired to belong. If you find a sense of community, you give your best self.”

FINDING THE FANS: The challenge of reaching young fans was a recurring theme on the opening panel, with the Dallas Cowboys’ Charlotte Jones Anderson talking about the struggle to stay relevant. Anderson: “How do we make them want to sit for the full experience? And if not, how do we take some of that content and offer it to them in a way that creates that same level of engagement?” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said he wanted to be careful “not to overreact,” but that he has been surprised with student attendance levels at sporting events. Scott: “If you’re struggling to get students to walk half a mile for a $10 ticket, what’s gonna happen when they’re out in the work force and they see the price points?”

WORDS OF WISDOM: It’s always fun to hear from the members of each year’s class of Champions of Sports Business, and yesterday was no exception. Before we broke for lunch, each of the Champions — some in person and some via video — accepted their award. Here are excerpts of their remarks: 
Paul Beeston, President Emeritus, Toronto Blue Jays, provided a video in which he thanked the “great people who made me look good.” Beeston added, “I think it was Harry Truman who said, ‘It’s unlimited what you can achieve if you don’t care who gets the credit.’ I try to operate like that.  I work with people and consider them associates, not assistants.”

Sal Galatioto, President, Galatioto Sports Partners, a cancer survivor, posed a question to the  algorithm writers: “What are the odds I’d be standing here? I’d postulate it’s pretty close to zero.”  Galatioto thanked his clients and team as well as the United States for “opening its arms to an uneducated, poor family from Sicily. There’s not better honor that I’ve received than being called an American.”

Howard Ganz, Co-Head, Sports Law Group, Proskauer, joked to the audience that he would be succinct and he lived up to that promise. But not without a self-deprecating joke: “The last time I was a podium was at a Proskauer event, (speaking) just before (former NBA Commissioner) David Stern. I thought I was being aproopriately brief, terse and to the point. The first thing Stern said was, ‘I could listen to Howard all night — and I just have!’ Ganz thanked his wife and his children, as well as “my colleagues at Proskauer: they’re one of the reasons I’m standing here today and why I’ve had a fun ride along the way.”

Kay Koplovitz, the founder of USA Network and managing partner, Springboard Growth Capital, recalled how she conceived MSG Network as the first cable sports network: “The whole idea was, hey, sports are only on the weekends, why not every day and night?” Then she signed a deal to carry the New York Yankees. The day after their first Yankee televised Yankee game, then MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn called and said the Yankees didn’t have the rights to sell her.
Koplovitz thought on it and pivoted to a bigger deal: “I told Bowie, ‘I’ll trade you.’ And I waited. He then said, ‘Trade me what?’ I said, ‘I’ll trade you the Yankees for Major League Baseball. And that’s how I got my contract with Major League Baseball.”

John Wooten, Chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, once blocked for Jim Brown and now helps pave the way for minority candidates to land coaching and front office jobs in the NFL. Accepting the award by video, Wooten, the guardian of the NFL’s Rooney Rule, said, “My greatest achievement is being part of Fritz Pollard Alliance started by Jonnie Cochran, helping other minorities we know have the ability and the drive to be successful in the National Football League.”

Ben Sutton, Founder of International Sports Properties (ISP), harkened to eastern North Carolina roots for teaching him valuable lessons that paid off in business. “When I founded ISP in 1992, we believed our model was better and no one could outwork us or out-innovate us. Growing up on the farm, my dad always told me: ‘There’s no such thing as status quo; you’re either getting behind or getting ahead.’ I believe that.” Sutton said  his success story could only have happened in the U.S.: “We took great pride in proving the American dream was alive and well.”


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DIFFERENT STROKES: Shahid Khan, Jaguars owner and Fulham FC Chairman, appeared with his son, Tony, and talked about the differences between English soccer and the NFL. “The NFL is very fan-friendly, and in our case, we’re the youngest team in football —20 years old. We want people coming in and having a good family experience,” he said. “English soccer, or soccer period, is hard core. No breaks. No alcohol in English stadiums during games. So if you’re looking for revenue from that side, it’s not there. It’s ticket sales and sponsorships. Very much an eat-what-you-kill mindset vs. a shared revenue model which the NFL has.”

TAKING IT ALL IN: Jay Monahan, who succeeded Tim Finchem early last year as commissioner of the PGA Tour, talked about the extensive listening tour he took so that he could hear from a variety of stakeholders. “We have a distributed business model,” he said, “so understanding what your constituents are thinking….is definitely important on a go-forward basis. It’s led us to (the Tour’s new branding effort) ‘Live Under Par.’ It’s led us to changes in other schedule, and it’s going to lead us to other changes in how we present our content. … We’re looking to own August and end our biggest events before the arrival of football in the fall.”

THE MEDIA LANDSCAPE: After listening to Hulu CEO Randy Freer for 30 minutes, you can conclude that the streaming service will eventually acquire major sports rights. “Ultimately, over time, sports rights will continue to prove their value,” Freer said. “The challenge we all have is to innovate on how we distribute those rights to consumers.” In a separate interview, Fox Sports’ Eric Shanks said the network’s new Thursday night NFL package is as vital to the company as its core Sunday afternoon games.“We’re so invested for the next five years in Thursday night, there is no game, at least in our package, that is too good to be on Thursday,” Shanks said.

SPOTTED: Last night’s Kings-Knights playoff NHL game at Staples Center proved to be a popular option after Day 1 of World Congress. AEG entertained a number of guests, including CAA’s Howie Nuchow and Wells Fargo’s Nick Caray, at the Hyde Lounge, hosted by Todd Goldstein, Russell Silvers and Nick Baker. Among game attendees: Orlando City’s Mike Yanuzzi, AMB Sports & Entertainment’s Kacey Sims and Eventellect’s Matt Galante and Taylor Leiby…Delaware North held a discussion and dinner for about 30 special guests at a rooftop setting looking over the city on South Olive Street. Attendees listened to a presentation on DNC’s continuing “Future of Sports” series by journalist/futurist Po Brosnan…A large dinner at West Hollywood’s Catch LA included Eventellect’s Patrick Ryan, Ilitch Sports’ Chris Granger, MLSE’s Tom Pistore, Dave Hopkinson, Paris Adams and Matt O’Brien, MKTG Canada’s Brian Cooper, Kilberry’s Richard Davis, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Brad Sims and Sacramento Republic FC’s Ben Gumpert … USA Triathlon President Barry Siff had a cheerful reunion with former USA Triathlon board member Vince O’Brien during the cocktail reception, at least three years since they’d last seen each other in person. O’Brien last spoke with Siff by phone during Triathlon’s CEO vacancy in 2017 to recommend Nolan Partners as a search firm, which led USAT to hire its new CEO, Rocky Harris…Quite a few people took Galatioto up on his special drink that was served during the GSP-sponsored reception that ended Day 1. It was called a Gala-Tequila, and was made of tequila, sour apple liqueur, lime juice, agave and lemon-lime soda…. USOC CMO Lisa Baird took the occasion of her trip to World Congress to start looking at real estate ads in LA. She’s not leaving NYC, she insists, but with preparations for the LA2028 Olympics picking up steam, she is trying to find an apartment for her frequent visits. “I want my own closet,” she said.

SPOTTED, TOO: Proskauer hosted a dinner at Broken Spanish, where guests mingled over margaritas, wine and mojito chicken bites before sitting down to a four-course meal highlighted by lamb neck tamal, chicharron and fried whole snapper, which servers expertly deconstructed tableside. Dessert was flan with pistachio dust and panna cotta with a spicy chile de arbol chocolate. Guests included Shahid and Tony Kahn, Pac 12 Commissioner Larry Scott, PJT Partners’ Joe Lenehan and Don Cornwell, and J.P. Morgan’s Brian KantarianStan Kroenke’s nascent 290-acre LA Stadium and Entertainment District hosted a reception at its Premiere Center in Playa Vista. Among the 75 or so attendees were Charlotte Jones Anderson and Shahid Khan, along with Pepsi’s Justin TomanTom Glick of Manchester City FC, and Ticketmaster’s Greg Economou … At Tuesday evening’s reception, we found former NFL and  Nascar sales exec Jim O’ Connell attending in a new role — heading a Dentsu property sales unit, with an initial charge of selling NBA Players Association rights. O’Connell had most recently been working for WheelsUp, after 10 years at Nascar. … A large contingent from CSM, including Dan Mannix, Harlan Stone and Ross Meltzer are on hand to support Forty Under 40 honoree Matt Grandis. …Sporting-good impresario Mitchell Modell said that while the NY Mets 12 wins is among the best in MLB, it has yet to increase sales of Mets’ licensed merchandise at his NE sporting-goods chain. However, with their first playoff appearance in years, Philadelphia 76ers merchandise is flying out of his stores, “especially anything with Ben Simmons name in it.” 

SPOTTED, THREE: A late night reception was hosted by Mobilitie last night at the J.W. Marriott at LA Live. Among those in attendance: Herrick’S Irwin Kishner; Navigate’s Alexa Linger; Connect Partnership’s Channing Butler; the Ducks’ Graham Siderius; and NWSL’s Susie Piotrkowski. …The JW Marriott lobby bar turned into an impromptu pep rally last night. The tony bar was crowded with hockey fans last night after the Vegas Golden Knights completed a playoff series sweep over the Los Angeles Kings at nearby Staples Center. Hordes of Vegas fans shouted “Let’s Go Knights!” several times during the evening, drowning out conversations in the bar….Minnesota United co-owner Ben Grossman and MLS’ Dan Courtemanche dining at WP24 by Wolfgang Puck, a restaurant on the 24th floor of the Ritz-Carlton that offered impressive views of Los Angeles.

POWER LUNCH: The sports business was well-represented along the 3rd floor of LA Live yesterday, as the World Congress of Sports with its more than 800 attendees intersected with an MLS BOG meeting on the same floor. During lunch break for both events, the hallway was full of VIPs, including MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Kraft Sports Group’s Jonathan Kraft, who both chatted with SBJ/SBD’s Abe Madkour, along with LAFC co-owner Peter Guber and Goldman’s Greg Carey.

WASSERMAN GROUP BACK AGAIN: The eighth annual Wasserman WCOS Women’s Cocktail Hour convened Thursday night at a patio just off the back of the JW Marriott. About 100 women attended what began as a support group within a male-dominated industry and has grown into a lobbying group of sorts. Wasserman Managing Partner Elizabeth Lindsey gave SBJ kudos for having double digits in woman speakers (13) this year. “We all feel like this group has helped influence that,” she said. As for overall industry progress, when it comes to gender equality? “We’ve seen some positive movement,” said former SUM President Kathy Carter, another original organizer. “We all knew progress would be incremental and it has been. But we’re moving in the right direction.” 

FORTY UNDER 40: Fox Sports’ Curt Menefee and Charissa Thompson will be the co-hosts of the tonight’s Forty Under 40 gala. There’s a winner’s-only photo shoot from 6:00 to 6:30, then a coctail reception at 6:30, the banquet and awards ceremony at 7:30 and a post-event reception at 10:00.

“The (sports franchise) market is exhausting potential buyers, but there are new billionaires created every day. Not everyone, including a billionaire, wants to lose money. But it’s a cool thing (to own a team).” — Ganz.
“It’s a boy toy!” — fellow Champion Koplovitz, responding to Ganz.
“This is serious money. Serious business. And you can’t screw it up just because you want your son involved.” — Khan
“There are three things I’ve learned in almost 50 years in America. It’s more important to make long-term friends than short-term profits. Never start a meeting with a full bladder. And never say no to a man named Salvatore.” — Galatioto
“You better work on those legs. Cleveland’s offensive line isn’t that good. You’re going to have to survive.” — USC AD Lynn Swann, on what advice he would give Trojans QB Sam Darnold if he goes first in the draft.

SOCIAL ANIMALS: We hope you’ll appreciate everyone who helped us extend the sports business discussion on social media yesterda. The conference hashtag is #SBJWCS. You can also follow us on Twitter @SBJSBD

Tweets from the conference generated more than 4.6 million impressions on Tuesday. Special thanks to our most frequent tweeters: @Major_LeagueBiz, Mike Sunnucks (@Mikesunx), Joe Favorito (@Joefav), Heather Joy Martin (@HevCollart), CuSportsBiz (@CU_SPS_Sports) and Jack Patterson (@jackcpatterson).

Here are a few tweets that caught our eye:
@jackcpatterson: Cool to see @TonyKhan speak at #sbjwcs. Had heard he was super smart … it’s true. Enjoying hearing him speak about his role at @FulhamFC. Also his Dad Shahid is awesome too! 
@slauletta: Kudos to @caa_sports and @sbjsbd for featuring the #TimesUp movement at #sbjwcs such an important conversation for all industries … well done.
@bsiff: Great session on #Inclusion4All & #diversity. Powerful. Thank you #SBJWCS. #TimesUp
@BenSuttonISP: Privileged to be a part of such a distinguished class of honorees in LA. Loved leading our teams at #ISPSports @IMGCollege and now @TeallCapital - this is a true team award.
@AmyTrask: A privilege and a pleasure to participate in @sbjsbd opening panel - thanks for including me - Twitter Village, hope you don’t mind if I retweet a few things I said (oh what the heck, just means I’ll be yakking by retweet instead of tweet).

Mixing it up a litte bit…Here are a few Instagram posts we liked:

NEED TO KNOW: If you’re reading this in an Uber and headed our way, we’re at the JW Marriott at L.A. Live, across the street from the Staples Center. Registration, exhibits and breakfast open on Level 3 at 7:15 a.m., and the first session starts at 8:20. You can get the agenda, attendee list, speaker and sponsor details, and much more on our web app. Just navigate your device to

YOU ASK, WE ANSWER: Our moderators will be taking your questions throughout the day on a handy-dandy iPad that they will have on stage. You can submit your question through the web app, or by texting SBJSBD to 22-333 to join our session.

EMAIL EVOLUTION: Many thanks to our All-Access sponsor, Heritage Werks, for providing support for our email reports and the video interviews that you can view on our social media channels and in THE DAILY.

CONTENT CREATORS: As always, we appreciate your comments and suggestions. Click on Ross or Abe’s byline at the top of the page to send us an email. Michael Smith, Eric Fisher, Ben Fischer, Austin Karp, Terry Lefton, John Ourand, Mike Sunnucks and Robert Gray contributed to this newsletter.

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From LA Live: 2018 World Congress All-Access, Presented by Heritage Werks

By Abe Madkour and Ross Nethery

Record attendance for World Congress … Disruption, innovation, inclusion are key pillars of today’s program … Champions tell their stories …Party and dinner circuit … Seen and heard

TALKERS: Here’s what will be driving the conversation today: Legalized sports gambling … College sports investigated by the FBI, while the NCAA awaits recommendations on the future of college basketball by a former Secretary of State … An expansion team in a controversial new market turns out to be the story in sports … One of the most ambitious NFL drafts ever produced will happen next week in Dallas … A massively disrupted media landscape sees the critical launch of ESPN+ … We’ve lost count of how many startup football leagues are planning to launch in the next two years … And there’s plenty more – the sports business never stops.

INSIDE THE AGENDA: This year’s agenda and speaker roster were built around a few key pillars: Disruption and innovation; creativity; diversity and inclusion; and agents of change. It’s the 17th World Congress of Sports, and we’re happy to say we will have a full ballroom with record attendance.

MONAHAN’S COURSE: PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has been in the big chair for 15 months, and has gradually put his stamp on the Tour after 22 years of Tim Finchem’s leadership. Today marks one of Monahan’s first appearances speaking to the broader sports industry, and it’s a chance for many attendees to hear his story for the first time. In this sit-down with SBJ/SBD’s Abe Madkour, expect a focus on critical PGA Tour initiatives, but also a look at the management style, mentors and leadership philosophy of Monahan, who is well-regarded and popular in sports business circles.

THE PATH OF KHAN: The Jacksonville Jaguars were one of the hot stories of the NFL season, and Shahid and Tony Khan have big plans for the franchise in Jacksonville, but also for their Fulham FC soccer club in England. The two will sit with Proskauer’s Joe Leccese to talk about business drivers, using data and analytics and how teams can be a force for social good in the community.

WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS: Four members of the SBJ class of Champions 2018 will share their stories and life lessons. We’ll hear from Sal Galatioto, Howard Ganz, Kay Koplovitz and Ben Sutton in what is always one of the most popular sessions of the conference.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US: SportsBusiness Journal is on the brink of celebrating its 20th anniversary, with a special issue coming April 30 to look back at the amazing evolution of the industry in the last two decades. This will be a fun read, so keep an eye out for it. Also, while we didn’t have time to completely verify this, we believe this week’s edition is the 1000th issue of SBJ.


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SPOTTED: Clay Walker grabbing a truffle mushroom swiss burger at Smashburger after flying in from Washington … Coca-Cola’s Andrew Davis catching up with Forty Under 40 honoree Nzinga Shaw and a friend in the lobby bar … Galitioto having coffee and pastries with GSP’s Russ Granik … SME President Ed O’Hara left his favorite getaway of Costa Rica at around 4 a.m. Monday to travel to L.A. for World Congress, via Houston. After dinner at Takami Sushi in downtown L.A., O’Hara told us one of the next assignments for the Learfield-owned branding firm will be a rebrand for U.S. Youth Soccer…While we’re on the subject of soccer, MLS’ Gary Stevenson told us at the JW Marriott’s lobby bar that a board meeting in L.A. made attending the conference an easy decision…TD Garden President Amy Latimer checking into the JW Marriott while checking her phone to see the Maple Leafs had just taken a 3-2 lead on the Bruins in Game Three of their playoff series. The Maple Leafs went on to win 4-2 to tighten the series, with the Bruins still leading 2-1….DLA Piper’s Peter White with colleagues in the corner of the lobby bar.

KICKOFF ON THE ROOFTOP: We had a good group last night at the SportsBusiness Journal/Daily kick off reception held with CAA at Perch on S. Hill Street, about a mile from LA Live. The glamorous rooftop setting offered grand views of the city, though the weather was a bit windy. On the menu: crab cakes, burrata, chicken skewers and more. Among those spotted: Champions Koplovitz, Ganz, Galatioto and Sutton. CAA’s Howard Nuchow, Paul Danforth, Nick Khan and Alan Gold; Oakland A’s co-owner/MLS Earthquakes’ John Fisher; Proskauer’s Leccese and Brad Ruskin; DLA Piper’s Mark Whitaker; Stevenson and Seth Bacon; Tom Brady’s agent Don Yee; AEG’s John Keegan; Pac-12’s Larry Scott; LionTree’s Lyle Ayes; Granik. Afterwards, people went inside to munch on salads, steak and salmon, and dessert trays.

FOR THE LATER CROWD: A post-dinner cocktail reception was hosted at the JW Marriott by the American Gaming Association, which made a subtle dig at the current national sports gambling statute with the specialty drink of the night — a “PASPA Sunset” (tequila, orange juice, grenadine). Among those spotted: Illinois AD and Forty Under 40 honoree Josh Whitman, chatting with Washington Univ. Sports Business Program Director Patrick Rishe (Whitman was previously at WashU). Also: Sportradar’s Laila Mintas, LeadDog’s Dan Mannix, AmEx’s Lisa Kahn, Everfi’s Ira Frankel, Endeavor’s Lindsey Goodman and Fan Experiences’ Walker.

LOOKING FOR BETTER WEATHER: Among the early arrivals yesterday was Chris Granger, Ilitch Holdings group president of sports and entertainment. And on Granger’s mind, like many across baseball this month, was the historically poor weather befalling the entire sport so far this season. The Detroit Tigers, part of the Ilitch Holdings portfolio, have been among the teams most heavily impacted by the spate of snow, rain and cold temperatures. Less than three weeks into the 2018 season, the club has already had six postponements, more than any full season in Comerica Park’s 18-year history, and a number equal to its total number of home games played thus far.

READY FOR THE GAME: Two years ago at the 2016 World Congress of Sports, the L.A. Live area was abuzz with Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant’s final game. Tonight, it will be the Kings’ turn in the local spotlight during the conference as they play host to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, one of the most remarkable stories in all of sports. The Kings will try to stave off elimination and a four-game series sweep. Among the conference attendees planning to attend tonight are Sportradar’s Steve Byrd and Yahoo Sports’ Kyle McDoniel.

THE DINNER CIRCUIT: Ben Sutton, a member of the 2018 class of Champions, celebrated with friends and co-workers last night on the 15th floor of the trendy Perch restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. Sutton and a group of a dozen dined on filet, salmon and scallops with mashed potatoes good enough to rival those at Dan’l Boone Inn, the family-style restaurant in the mountains of Boone, N.C., that he enjoys so much. They finished it off with white chocolate bread pudding. Sutton had his Teall Capital team of Anna Barton Kolda, Kelli Hilliard, Wes Day and Lou Doherty around him, as well as ESPN executive Burke Magnus, veteran media exec Ed Wilson, Kyle Nelson of MVPIndex, Pebble Beach real estate expert Peter Butler and Chuck Steedman from AEG Facilities. … Sports Innovation Lab CEO Angela Ruggiero gave the concierge a simple request: “Tell me the best Mexican place around here, not a chain,” and it paid off with some marvelous chile relleno at Broken Spanish, where she dined with fellow Sports Innovation Lab cofounder Josh Walker along with Karen Bryant from Atavus Sport. … During the opening cocktail hour, Jaguars owner Shahid Khan was spotted at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse dining with 21st Century Fox President and Chairman/CEO of Fox Networks Group Peter Rice. They had the filet and Khan posed for a selfie with the manager before he left. … 4Sport Consulting President Kevin Gilmore took the preferred Canadian path for dinner: He watched the Maple Leafs down the Bruins in Stanley Cup playoff action from a perch at the Yardhouse bar, where had the fish tacos.

PERSONAL DEMONSTRATION: During Sutton’s celebration dinner, Magnus, ESPN’s Executive VP, programming and acquisitions, gave a demonstration of ESPN+ – the over-the-top app that launched April 12. Pulling an iPhone from his pocket, Magnus opened the app and called up video from the 1985 boxing match between Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns to demonstrate the scope of the service’s library. Magnus, though, suggested that one the service’s best selling points may be its ad-free content – not just on the OTT service but throughout ESPN digital. ESPN+ subscribers that are logged in do not have pre-roll ads for videos, like highlights and interviews, on, for example. “That’s been an underreported aspect of ESPN+,” Magnus said.

YOUR JUST REWARDS: Sure, we’re hitting you with a lot of info today, but we’ll try to have some fun, too. In fact, when today’s sessions are over, we’ve got, not one, but two receptions for you. The first is from 5:30 to 7:00, hosted by GSP. Then, when you get back from dinner, Mobilitie will host a gathering from 9:00 to 11:00. You’re welcome!

VOLUNTEERS: We’ve got a large group of student volunteers helping out with the conference. Representing San Diego State University: Pete Abels, Rob Jankowski, Payton Wells, Brandon Sim, Jessica Luttrell, Ryan Maguire, Michael Nichols and Lauren Rojo. From the University of Southern California: Brett Hartmann. Representing the University of Central Florida: Tatiana Patton, Sara Catherine Hayes. From Long Beach State University: Steele Sylte. From USC-Marshall: Stefan Huber. From University of San Francisco: Jason Walter.

NEED TO KNOW: If you’re reading this in an Uber and headed our way, we’re at the JW Marriott at L.A. Live, across the street from the Staples Center. Registration, exhibits and breakfast open on Level 3 at 7:15 a.m., and the first session starts at 8:15. You can get the agenda, attendee list, speaker and sponsor details, and much more on our web app. Just navigate your device to

YOU ASK, WE ANSWER: Our moderators will be taking your questions throughout the day on a handy-dandy iPad that they will have on stage. You can submit your question through the web app, or by texting SBJSBD to 22-333 to join our session.

SOCIAL ANIMALS: We hope you’ll help us extend the sports business discussion on social media for the next two days. The conference hashtag is #SBJWCS. You can also follow us on Twitter @SBJSBD. We’ll be monitoring the chatter and retweeting some of the best comments. Here are a few pre-conference tweets that we liked:
@erikj10: Very pleased to be fleeing the 18” of snow in Minneapolis for Los Angeles and the @sbjsbd #SBJWCS. Sorry I’m not sorry, Twin Cities friends!
@JeffYocom: Looking forward to this week’s @sbjsbd #SBJWCS in LA. 3 tool conference: content, attendees and location!
@Major_LeagueBiz: We are on the way to Los Angeles for @sbjsbd #SBJWCS. Looking forward to some great panels and the chance to connect and reconnect with some great #sportsbiz people.

EMAIL EVOLUTION: Many thanks to our All-Access sponsor, Heritage Werks, for providing support for our email reports and the video interviews that you can view on our social media channels and in THE DAILY.

CONTENT CREATORS: As always, we appreciate your comments and suggestions. Click on Ross or Abe’s byline at the top of the page to send us an email. Michael Smith, Eric Fisher, Ben Fischer, Austin Karp, Terry Lefton, John Ourand and Robert Gray contributed to this newsletter.

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Live from New York: 2017 IAF All-Access, Presented by Legends

Serious times call for serious leadership, and that was reflected throughout both days of the ’17 Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. And there was plenty of talk on Thursday, the final half-day of the conference, about the weighty issues: basketball reform, the growing influence of donors and fans, amateurism and more. And we’re going to get to that.

First up, though, if you missed our final panel yesterday, about esports on campus, you missed an opportunity to hear a group of people who are not only passionate about this growing industry, but are passionate about what it can do on campuses. We’ll be the first to admit that we were skeptical for a long while about the potential of esports, but our coverage of it has grown, and will continue to, as evidenced by our recent investment in The Esports Observer. But rarely have we been as jazzed up about the prospects of esports as we were by the obvious excitement of the panelists in our “Inside Varsity Esports” session.

WINNING THE SKEPTICS: Rutgers AD Pat Hobbs, who supports the esports movement on his campus, said he’s had donors tell him that the department shouldn’t spend any resources on esports, but that when that happens, he launches Twitch on his phone and shows them 50,000 people watching an esports player practice a game. That opens eyes quickly.  “I get the skepticism, and the issues folks raise,” Hobbs said. “But you need to be open-minded.” Riot Games’ Michael Sherman said it comes down to whether administrators are willing to open their eyes about what is actually happening on their campuses. “There’s not thousands of people going and playing pickup basketball on [college] campuses,” he said. But there are thousands of people playing video games. More Hobbs: “My generation played football, basketball and baseball. Then appreciation grew for those sports when you watched them on TV at a later age. That’s where this has evolved. It has participation and viewership.” From a grassroots movement a few years ago, there are now 58 varsity esports programs across the U.S. Univ. of Utah’s A.J. Dimick said esports players are excited about the chance to represent their schools in competition with rivals, and predicted that within five years the school will fill its 15,000-capacity Jon M. Huntsman Center for an esports competition. Dimick: “We’ll blow the doors off.”

HEADLINES OF THE DAY: The opening panel on day two expanded on many of the issues that dominated our first-day sessions, including looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the college football playoff. AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco had a blunt response when asked whether he would be interested in a football playoff for schools outside the Power Five conferences: “We don’t want to be considered second-class citizens.” He added that would feel a little too much like being at the “kids’ table.” Learfield’s Greg Brown said that one of the flaws of the current system is that the playoff selections ultimately depend so much “on where you start” in the rankings at the beginning of the season, but the panel was divided over what could be done about that.

When moderator Dan Wolken of USA Today brought up efforts to reform men’s basketball in the wake of the FBI investigation, ESPN’s Jay Williams was doubtful that reform will gain any traction. Williams: “If you don’t have the knowledge of how that underworld works, how are you going to put restrictions on how that operates? The amount of money being funneled underground is ridiculous. It’s way more than the outside world knows about.” Maryland’s Kevin Anderson was more optimistic, saying Condoleezza Rice is “the right person to lead” the panel charged with coming up with a list of solutions, though Aresco wondered if her committee’s recommendations will truly be acted upon. The Knight Commission’s Carol Cartwright added that the NCAA “doesn’t have a great history” of taking bold recommendations and acting on them.

RAMPING UP FOR ACC NET: Athletic directors from ACC members Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh spoke at length about the 2019 launch of the ACC Network linear channel. Pitt’s Heather Lyke said the Panthers are spending $14M on equipment, studios and personnel. Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets are investing up to $12M to ramp up, said Todd Stansbury. Lyke also cited the ancillary benefits of having the network, such as the practical experience students earn by working on content production. “There’s an opportunity for students to be involved in live productions,” Lyke said. “And we don’t have a film and TV major, so it could be something that starts unique, new majors.”

MORE TO DO ON DIVERSITY: CLL Business Enterprises’ Cheryl Levick, a former AD at Georgia State, praised recent hires such as Carla Williams at Virginia and Lisa Campos at UTEP, but said there’s still much to be done when it comes to women landing AD positions. Levick: “We’re seeing progress being made. Honestly, though, is it fast enough? No. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but everyone is trying.” She added that former ADs such as herself, as well as current campus leaders, “need to do a better job of mentoring.” Levick: “We simply need more consistent development of our next leaders.”


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EMBRACING THE FUTURE: Mirroring developments at the pro level, a fast-increasing number of schools, brands and marketing partners are looking to leverage mobile platforms not only for fan engagement, but also for lead generation toward other sales efforts. “We’ve seen such an uptick in digital games, for example, schools using their LED boards and videoboards,” said Learfield’s Keisha Taylor. Mobile platforms are also increasingly proving to be a highly fertile ground for the development of loyalty programs that leverage college sports affinity. “We’re ultimately trying to create different ways for fans to engage with us, and deliver experiential rewards that you can’t buy,” said Adam Dettman of MillerCoors. The brewing giant has successfully introduced its Coors Light XP loyalty app that includes exclusive access to sports events as part of its rewards structure. “You have to create an extension of the value to the consumer. And you can’t fight the behavior [of fans using their mobile devices]. So how do you participate and amplify that experience?”

ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION: Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick said the school’s recent Campus Crossroads project represents a new model for college facility renovation that deeply intertwines athletics with the rest of the university mission. Swarbrick said the project was “a story…about how the university and athletics can be one.” The project, the largest in Notre Dame history at more than $400 million, started traditionally as a means to improve Notre Dame Stadium for the varsity football program, but quickly transformed into one where the entire university community could be served on a regular basis. “I was asking exactly the wrong question,” Swarbrick said. “The question really was, ‘How is it in a campus growing like ours, how could you take our real estate right in the center of campus and only use it seven times a year? If athletics just builds an impressive facility for the benefit of varsity athletes and fans, we’re going to get ourselves in trouble. It hastens the perception that we’re not in it with the rest of the university.”

SWITCHING ROLES: Swarbrick got to turn the tables on his interviewer, the NFL’s Greg Aiello, at the end of their session. Swarbrick asked Aiello, who is a ’74 graduate of Notre Dame and had just a short walk to the conference from the league office on Park Avenue, what the greatest challenge was in his 27-year career with the league office and 38 years overall in pro football. After briefly joking about not getting enough sleep, Aiello said player health and safety is a paramount issue for the NFL to manage. “This speaks directly to the core of what we do, which is the game,” Aiello said. 

TALKING HOOPS WITH WONG AND WRIGHT: The sports business tree of professor Glenn Wong is well known; he’s one of the most well-regarded and well-liked people in the business and has taught hundreds of executives who line the sports business industry today.  What you may not know about Wong is that he is also a great athlete and an all-star on the basketball court. Word on the street is that he can go to his left and right off the dribble with ease, can pass like Larry Bird and shoot like Steve Kerr. There was an interesting six-degrees of separation moment this week at the conference, and fun to see Wong and Villanova men’s basketball coach Jay Wright catch up on old times. Here’s the background: Wong played for legendary coach Rollie Massimino at Lexington High School in Massachusetts. Wright later worked as an assistant for Massimino at Villanova, and he would often overhear the coach call up Wong asking for favor after favor for one of his friends or student athletes.  “I don’t know how Glenn was still standing after Rollie was done asking him for everything,” Wright said, with a laugh.  “That was the thing about Rollie. He was very, very loyal, but he expected that same loyalty from you – and more.”

SEEN AND HEARD: John Currie sitting along a window overlooking Broadway waiting for breakfast guest in the hotel’s Brasserie 1605 restaurant…The speakers’ room hosted a brief Kent State reunion Thursday morning, when Knight Commission co-chair Cartwright and SBJ/SBD’s Ben Fischer caught up for the first time in 14 years. They last spoke when Fischer was directing coverage of her administration as editor of the Daily Kent Stater in 2003. …Utah State’s John Hartwell hustling to his room after his panel appearance to pack for a flight to an event in Atlanta, where his team’s kicker, Dominik Eberle, was a finalist for the Groza Award. The award was ultimately presented to Utah’s Matt Gay.

“When administrators say they don’t have students interested in gaming, I take that as a lack of awareness of what’s going on on your campus.” — Association of Collegiate Esports’ Michael Brooks.

“I feel the athletic directors feel they need to do this because they aren’t getting cover by their presidents.” –Learfield’s Brown, on the high salaries paid to football coaches.

“I want to challenge that” – Cartwright, former Kent State president, arguing back to Brown that’s not always the case.

“We are starting to look too much like the pros.” — Aresco.

“It’s a sad commentary to our profession that these things seem to happen.” — Maryland’s Kevin Anderson, on the treatment of Currie at TN.

“If you are aligned on mission, values and culture, you can withstand it.” – Cartwright, on pressures brought by fans in situations like that at TN.

“Inevitably, that day will occur.” – Williams, on whether college athletes would ever boycott a major college event over lack of rights or compensation.

“My own gut feeling is that it ultimately won’t.” – Aresco, in response to Williams on the potential for a boycott.

“I think what you will see in the next round of negotiations is a breaking up of content.” — Learfield’s Marc Jenkins, on the next round of media rights talks.

SOCIAL ANIMALS: We appreciate everyone who helped extend the college sports discussion on social media. The conference hashtag, #SBJIAF, had 13.6 million. We particularly appreciate frequent tweeters @JasonBelzer, @ASUSportsLawBiz, @CU_SPS_Sports, @Learfield, @jackcpatterson and @D1Ticker.

Here are a few of the tweets that caught our eye:
@Powell667: Thanks to the SBJ, I really enjoyed being part of the panel and loved highlighting our great CUSE student-athletes! #sbjiaf
@Learfield: Outstanding line up of speakers and content both days #loadedagenda #sbjiaf #nyc
@jackpatterson: Kudos @Daventry1701 for having a progressive and well thought out view about #esports in the college space. It’s refreshing. #sbjiaf
@jackpatterson: Good to see people like @soonerad speak positively about the importance of social media reach at @sbjsbd #sbjiaf. His view is reflected by the awesome work at @OU_Athletics. #smsports
@sachdev_ananya: Summing my experience from all the conferences at @sbjsbd I’m even more convinced that #digitalmedia is the #future. #contentisking #volunteer2017 #SBJIAF

EMAIL EVOLUTION: Many thanks to our first All-Access sponsor, Legends, for providing support for our email reports and the video interviews that you can view on our social media channels and in THE DAILY. And thanks to the video crew from Good Sport for handling the shoots.

CONTENT CREATORS: As always, we appreciate your comments and suggestions. Click on Ross or Abe’s byline at the top of the page to send us an email. Michael Smith, Eric Fisher, Ben Fischer and Thomas Leary contributed to this newsletter.

THAT’S A WRAP: Thus ends our 2017 conference schedule. Thanks to everyone who attended, spoke and followed from afar. We’ll be back in April with the 2018 CAA World Congress of Sports.


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We are proud to serve our distinguished partners including Yankee Stadium, AT&T Stadium, 40 Live Nation venues, One World Observatory, Golden 1 Center, Manchester City FC, University of Notre Dame, University of Oklahoma, Villanova University, University of Southern California, Los Angeles Stadium & Entertainment District at Hollywood Park, Los Angeles Football Club, Nissan Stadium, Atlanta Falcons, NFL, Prudential Center, Rose Bowl, AS Roma, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and Indianapolis 500. For more about Legends business and career opportunities, visit