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Volume 27 No. 5
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SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead -- Adidas Capitalizes On MLS Return

Early on in the pandemic, the discourse around a sports relaunch focused on returning to normal. Four challenging months later, we know better -- things aren’t going to be normal for a long, long time.

MLS is back, but not all the teams. MLB is coming back, but not David Price or Buster Posey, we learned today. The NFL is finally coming to terms with the fact it won’t be able to wait out the trouble, as its leaders once hoped. College football seems to be hanging by a thread.

Sports are clawing back, but it’s going to be a hard, uncertain slog.

-- Ben Fischer



  • The size and virtual positioning of Adidas’ logo around the halfway line during the MLS is Back tournament initially caused quite a stir among soccer enthusiasts, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. But for the league sponsor, the positioning has already paid off, according to Chicago-based Navigate Research

  • The data and analytics firm tracked Adidas’ exposure for the tournament’s first two matches. Navigate estimated that the value of the logo is between $75,000 and $100,000 per match. Over the 51-match tournament, Adidas would receive $3.8 million to $5.1 million in value, Navigate found. 

  • Navigate Research’s Senior MLS analyst/consultant Kevin Kane: "Virtual logo integration could be a marquee asset for regional broadcasts in which teams would now have the ability to rotate partners on prominent on-field positions and deliver higher TV exposure. The virtual logo integration is not new to sports, but the jolt from COVID-19 has brought technological advancements to center stage, some of which will continue once fans are back in seats.” 

  • Heat Director of Corporate Partnerships Anthony Perez gave his take on Twitter: "Logo placement is the price of admission during a pandemic. No gate revenue & lots of deliverables outstanding means corp revenue needs to be protected. Adidas pays MLS $117 mill a year, they got center pitch. We’ll get used to it by next match."


Navigate Research estimated that the value of the Adidas logo is between $75,000 and $100,000 per match
Navigate Research estimated that the value of the Adidas logo is between $75,000 and $100,000 per match
Navigate Research estimated that the value of the Adidas logo is between $75,000 and $100,000 per match



  • NASCAR has sent a memo to teams reminding them that they need to strictly adhere to coronavirus safety protocols in order to keep the season going, according to a memo obtained by Charlotte-based WCNC-NBC reporter Nick Carboni

  • The memo mentioned “pockets of complacency” and read in part: "We're seeing more and more vanloads of crew members rolling up to the track without masks on, and people wearing their mask down around their chin. … More people in our industry are going to contract the virus. The key is limiting it. Maintaining the integrity of the footprint in the garage area with only essential personnel being allowed is imperative. It is important for everyone to do their part ALL THE TIME. One cluster outbreak can derail our season."

  • SBJ's Adam Stern writes the memo comes almost two months after NASCAR re-started its 2020 season. NASCAR is one of the few sports leagues in America to return without uniform coronavirus testing, but the sport has enacted strict social distancing measures and mask requirements from the first day back, and it believes it holds an inherent advantage over other sports because there is no contact between drivers.

  • However, driver Jimmie Johnson tested positive for the virus last week – and there also have been a handful of shop members who have tested positive, showing that the sport remains vulnerable to the virus like everyone else.



  • Fifty-eight MLB players tested positive for COVID-19 during their intake screening protocols, which were administered when players reported to training camps, reports SBJ's Eric Prisbell.

  • An additional 13 have tested positive during monitoring testing since workouts began July 3. During intake screening, there were 66 positive tests (58 players, eight staff members), which amounted to 1.8% of 3,748 samples tested. 

  • Also included in the MLB testing data the league released Friday: 10 teams -- one-third of the league -- had a player or staff member test positive during monitoring testing, which began after workouts started. Players and on-field personnel are tested every other day. Other staff members are tested multiple times per week. During monitoring testing, there were 17 positive tests (13 players, four staff members), which amounted to 0.2% of 7,401 samples tested. 



  • Top Seed Tennis Club’s rapid rise in pro tennis will reach a new apex on Aug. 10 when the Nicholasville, Ky.,-based club hosts a WTA international-level tournament in the Top Seed Open, writes SBJ's Bret McCormick.

  • The WTA event’s move to Kentucky was quietly confirmed a few weeks ago, as the tour looked to avoid staging both the ATP and WTA sides of the Citi Open in DC, creating too many people at one site at the same time. Bluegrass Ortho was quickly signed up as a presenting sponsor. “Since there are no fans, we’re just trying to maximize the benefit of becoming a sponsor. We’re in a media focus, so where the cameras are -- anything we can put our sponsors on is going to be our main haul,” said Haley Wilson, Top Seed Tennis Club’s head of marketing.

  • The $12 million Top Seed Tennis Club is less than two years old, but it has already hosted major junior tennis and lower-level pro tournaments, as well as a recent exhibition that featured a number of WTA pros. The facility lacks stadium courts, but that won’t matter this year because the event will be made-for-TV, played without fans within a local quarantine bubble, including a completely rented-out Embassy Suites. Kentucky-based Labtox Labs is overseeing all health and safety protocols for the tournament.

  • Wilson acknowledged that this event, with $225,000 in prize money, is a one-off to fill the Citi Open’s spot in the 2020 calendar. But the club is open about wanting to pursue a WTA tournament sanction for the future and is proving that interest with plans to build 5,000 and 2,500-seat stadium courts next year. That makes this inaugural event essentially a test run for the club’s hosting abilities at the highest level. “We execute this one, everything goes according to plan, we move forward,” said Wilson.



  • Kevin Belbey has shifted gears from his normal work schedule this week, taking part in The Basketball Tournament in ColumbusOhio, where he is serving as GM for Boeheim’s Army. “There's the competition on the court (but) there's also the competition with the virus and us needing to stay healthy to be able to play,” said Belbey, whose day job is as VP/Sports Broadcasting for The Montag Group. “So, I'm trying to make sure that we're healthy but also trying to separate those two.” Boeheim’s Army won their first game on Tuesday and are headed to the quarterfinals on Saturday.
  • All teams took two tests before traveling and arrived five days early. Belbey said he had been getting tested about every other day since arriving. Each team has its own floor at the Hyatt Regency and each individual has their own room. “There's also just a lot of guidelines here,” the Syracuse alum noted. “A lot of these players know each other -- high school, college, AAU -- but really we can't interact with any of the other teams. … All the food is grab-and-go ... There's no buffet-style.”
  • Belbey feels the tournament is accomplishing its goal of having less than 50 people inside Nationwide Arena during games: “I think that there was probably less than 30 in there, certainly less than 35 or 40. It looks weird, when you take a step back, but once the game is being played and the guys are going up and down, it looked and felt as normal as it could.” Belbey said of his duties as GM: “I'm doing everything I can to make it feel like for our guys that it is a game day and to, at least for a couple hours, forget about what's going outside of bubble.”
  • While three Montag clients -- Chris Vosters, Dan Dakich and Seth Greenberg -- are part of ESPN’s TBT announcing team, Belbey hasn’t had any interaction with them, as they are working remotely. Jen Hale (not a Montag client) is the only media personality on site, performing sideline reporter duties while social distancing.


Belbey (front-left) this week is working as GM of Boeheim’s Army, one of the team’s vying for the winner-take-all $1 million prize
Belbey (front-left) this week is working as GM of Boeheim’s Army, one of the team’s vying for the winner-take-all $1 million prize
Belbey (front-left) this week is working as GM of Boeheim’s Army, one of the team’s vying for the winner-take-all $1 million prize



  • Tonight's op-ed contribution is from AXIS Insurance executive James Hamilton, who writes under the header, "Insurance Needs To Keep Pace With Esports’ Growing Spotlight."

  • "As traditional sports games and video gaming converge, our definition of sports is changing -- and at a rapid pace. Esports and other non-traditional sporting events have been on a rapid pace to take a noteworthy share of consumers’ attention and wallets. ... Amid the current global pandemic, the borderless nature of gaming has meant that esports are thrust further into the spotlight as fans are turning to simulated games and contests on their personal devices."

  • To read the full contribution, click here.



  • NBA viewers will likely be getting a socially-distant view of the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex during upcoming games, as Goodyear’s airship folks are in discussions with the league’s TV partners to provide aerial coverage of the complex from July 30-Aug. 14 in Orlando, a source told SBJ’s David Broughton.

  • The Saints are the latest NFL team to "offer deferment of 2020 season tickets to the 2021 season, allowing fans to either use the money already paid toward the cost" of their 2021 tickets or to receive a refund. The Saints sent a form to season-ticket holders offering the "option to fans to cancel their 2020 season tickets and receive a refund while also keeping the option to renew in 2021." There is also an option to "rollover the payments already made" to 2021. The Bengals also made a similar announcement today.

  • Sports fans in Colorado as of today can begin legally placing bets in-person & online. DraftKings and Twin River Worldwide Holdings’ Mardi Gras Casino have opened their temporary retail sportsbook in Black Hawk. The venue has implemented a number of precautions to ensure the safety of all guests amid the pandemic, including the requiring of face coverings, the use of handheld thermometers, requiring guests to utilize social distancing and increased cleaning and disinfecting of all areas.
  • Details of Paycheck Protection Program loans to sports properties continue to surface as we head into the weekend.

    • Nearly $106 million in loans were approved for companies in the auto and horse racing.

    • Around 45% of the $27 million approved for college athletic departments and conferences went to three programs: Army, Navy ($5 million each) and Air Force ($2 million).

    • State-level high school athletic associations in Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Iowa and Indiana each were approved for $1 million loans, while 8 others each were approved for $350,000.

  • Check out Monday’s SBJ for the full deep dive from David Broughton and Bret McCormick.









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