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Volume 26 No. 225
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SBJ Unpacks: Subway Takes Over NFL QSR Category

As we ready for tonight’s eagerly anticipated resumption of the NBA, live from the sanitized seclusion of the Disney bubble in Orlando, in comes news from the cradle of college football, where the SEC has announced its intention to begin a 10-game conference-only schedule at the end of September.

It feels a bit like buying time. Which is not a bad thing, considering what we’ve learned about the havoc wreaked by an outbreak, even one contained to a single soccer side or baseball club.

So far, it appears to be better to bubble than not to bubble, though, to be fair, the math and the calendars of baseball and football aren’t at all like those of basketball and hockey.

One of the nice things about these games is that while they initially will draw attention to the unsightly furniture -- be they empty seats or cardboard cutouts or phony sights and sounds -- we eventually forget about all that and turn our attention to things familiar, like bases loaded in a tie game, or a last-second shot.

However it may look, sound or feel, tonight counts.

-- Bill King

   

NFL ADDS SUBWAY TO ROSTER OF SPONSORS

  • Subway has signed what it is calling a long-term deal as the NFL’s new quick-service restaurant sponsor, reports SBJ’s Terry Lefton, filling the void in the category left by the exit of McDonald’s after the 2018 season. Activation plans include in-store promotions, and advertising with NFL on-air talent. Subway will underwrite NFL youth platforms, including Play 60 and flag football. Momentum Worldwide, N.Y., negotiated the deal for Subway and will handle activation. The agency would not comment.

  • Subway receives exclusivity in the QSR and fast-casual restaurant categories. Pizza Hut retains its rights in the pizza category. While Subway was the presenting sponsor of NFL games in London for the past three seasons, this deal does not include overseas NFL rights. One potential conflict is that Subway pours Coca-Cola, while Pepsi has held NFL sponsorship rights since 2002. However, Subway does sell snacks from PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay brand.

  • Subway has dozens of local sports sponsorships, primarily college, largely driven by franchise owners. But it does have NFL team deals with the Ravens and Chargers, according to SportsAtlas. However, the NFL league sponsorship is the chain’s first large rights deal in years, as its national marketing had become increasingly product- and price-focused following the 2015 Jared Fogle scandal. However, Subway continued as a heavy ad buyer of NFL and other sports media. In March, it debuted a TV spot with J.J. Watt and his brothers T.J. and Derek.

  • Subway CMO Carrie Walsh, who joined the company last October, has years of experience with sports-marketing heavy brands, including Pizza Hut, Pepsi, and Frito-Lay. Subway hopes the NFL will be a lifeline, as the chain itself was already declining before the pandemic. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, Subway’s U.S, sales were $10.2 billion last year, down from a high of $12.5 billion in 2013. Another trade estimate pegged the number of U.S Subway locations declining from 27,000 in 2015 to 23,800 last year.

 

Subway activation plans include in-store promotions, and advertising with NFL on-air talent
Subway activation plans include in-store promotions, and advertising with NFL on-air talent
Subway activation plans include in-store promotions, and advertising with NFL on-air talent

 

SEC ADOPTS CONFERENCE-ONLY FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

  • The SEC is moving to a 10-game football conference schedule after university presidents and chancellors met virtually earlier today, per the Birmingham News' John Talty. The move, which comes one day after the ACC moved to a 10 conference game and 1 non-conference game schedule, "eliminates marquee non-conference games like LSU-Texas, Oklahoma-Tennessee and Auburn-North Carolina." 

  • SI's Ross Dellenger reports the SEC "will kick off the season Sept. 26, three weeks later than the scheduled Labor Day weekend start." While the SEC’s divisional structure is "expected to remain the same -- winners of two seven-team divisions playing in a Dec. 19 championship game -- league teams will play two more opponents from their opposite division."
     
  • Dellenger cautioned the SEC’s decision "doesn’t mean a season is imminent." Virus case numbers, "on the rise over the last month nationally, are still high, with many hotspots in the SEC’s 11-state footprint." The "hurdles to playing a season amidst a pandemic are a plenty: testing availability and delays in testing turnaround time; the return of thousands of students onto a college campus; a mandatory 14-day quarantine for positive contacts; and maybe most of all, the lack of a college sports bubble like the NBA has created."

  • The SEC now joins the Big Ten and Pac-12 by going to conference-only schedules, with the Big 12 expected to do the same.

  • Look for more analysis on the SEC's move from Michael Smith in tonight's SBJ College newsletter.



SAFETY FIRST WITHIN NBA BUBBLE

  • The spotlight shines on the NBA’s ambitious restart tonight with the league and the players union going to great lengths to protect and provide health care inside the Disney bubble. Dr. Benedict Nwachukwu, an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon in N.Y. who has previously worked with the Bulls and the NBPA, has been selected to be part of the league’s physician team. He arrived in Orlando today to begin his month-long assignment inside the bubble, and spoke to SBJ’s John Lombardo on his role and responsibilities.

    • On how he was chosen to work at Disney: "Through my involvement with the league, I understood the processes and that they were actively vetting and interviewing physicians. Given my experience with the Bulls and the players association, they felt it was a good fit. There are more than 15 doctors and people are going to Disney at different times. I’ll be down there for the month of August during the highest density of games. Part of it is that it’s a great opportunity, but I appreciate the opportunity to provide service.  There is a stipend associated with the assignment. I will also be trying to keep my practice going virtually. I’ll have tele-medical visits throughout the month of August."

    • On his specific duties: "The NBA has a cadre of sports medicine physicians and they have a suite of physicians in other specialties. I’ll be providing orthopedic coverage. I will be covering all the teams down there. We are working as a unit. Assuming everyone is negative, you still maintain social distancing and wear a mask. If someone tests positive and still needs orthopedic care, we will still provide it wearing barrier protections."

    • On his level of concern for injuries given that players haven’t played a NBA game since mid-March: "The guys are aware of the risk of a return to sports but teams and trainers are attuned to ramping things up safely and increasing minutes appropriately. That is what this ramp up period in the bubble is all about. It is one of the things that we as physicians are attuned to and we know that recovery after a game is critical and making sure that the players are conditioned up to the point of game performance fitness.  These guys are elite athletes and it is part of their preparation and their mindset. I do think they will ramp up appropriately without seeing a rash in injuries, but we always prepare for the worst.” 

    • His concerns for contracting the virus: "I am appropriately cautious but I am not overly concerned about it. I have tested negative and I will be tested every day that I am down there. I think the NBA should be commended when you compare them to other leagues as far as safety measures. A lot of thought has been put into this. The players are also aware of it. I’ve been impressed by the safety measures." 

 

NBA READY FOR MOVING PARTS ON SIDELINES

  • The sidelines will look a bit different when the NBA restarts tonight as the league changes its policies for health and safety reasons, including a wider border around the sidelines and a revised setup for team benches, writes SBJ's John Lombardo.

  • According to the league, team benches will consist of multiple rows of seats (with appropriate distance between each) and are divided into three sections: players; coaches and team staff; and unassigned seats.

    • The 17-seat players section is divided into three rows, with each player assigned a seat by his team.

    • The 12-seat coaches and team staff section, slightly separated from the players section, is divided into three rows of four seats, with each person assigned a seat. 

    • The unassigned seats section is located near the baseline and reserved only for temporary use to enable player-to-player, coach-to-player or trainer/physician-to-player communication during the game. The unassigned seats are promptly cleaned and disinfected after each use.  

  • During timeouts, players and coaches can huddle like normal “except they must sit in or congregate around movable chairs separate and apart from the team benches." The movable chairs used during timeouts or period breaks are "cleaned and disinfected after each use."     

  • The court’s sideline border is also wider to help with court visibility and to adjust for not having courtside fans. To help define the boundaries, the border around the court has been widened to 8 inches from 2 inches. Other changes include a provision that prohibits photographers and camera operators from their typical baseline areas on the floor. Instead they must shoot away from the floor. The scorer’s table will be surrounded by plexiglass.
     

 

Team benches are divided into three sections: players; coaches and team staff; and unassigned seats
Team benches are divided into three sections: players; coaches and team staff; and unassigned seats
Team benches are divided into three sections: players; coaches and team staff; and unassigned seats

 

YAHOO SPORTS PARTNERS WITH NBA IN NEW BETTING-CENTRIC DEAL

  • Yahoo Sports will add sports betting and fantasy overlays and integrations to its distribution of the NBA’s out-of-market streaming service as part of a deal announced today that makes it an official marketing partner of the league, writes SBJ's Bill King. The new-look streaming content is designed to appeal to NBA League Pass viewers who also bet on sports or play in fantasy contests, giving Yahoo Sports the opportunity to drive them to its BetMGM-powered sportsbook referral site and its daily fantasy contests.

  • Though not quite “watch-and-bet,” which allows sportsbooks to stream games on their own betting sites, this gets the league and its official sports betting sponsor, BetMGM, one step closer to it. Watch-and-bet is popular in Europe but has seen resistance from U.S. broadcast rightsholders who worry that it will cannibalize the streaming audience. Thus far only NHL has offered it to U.S. sportsbooks.

  • For the full story, click here.

  

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

 

 

NFL PROMISES "RADICAL TRANSPARENCY" ON COVID TESTING, EVENTUALLY

  • NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills promised “radical transparency” about the league’s COVID-19 testing procedures and results, but declined Thursday to release current stats because they’re still figuring out which positive results actually constitute new cases.

  • “We’ve been trying to divide those into people who are truly newly-infected versus those who have been infected in the past,” Sills said. Through Thursday, 65 players were on COVID injured lists, but those can include suspected cases and positive results, writes SBJ's Ben Fischer. NFL teams are conducting tens of thousands of tests this week as players report for camp.

  • Sills said the promise to share testing results extends to public health officials and the media. When asked if the NFL would follow the NBA’s lead in opening community testing, Sills demurred, but said the NFL will help by sharing information. “We're going to have an enormous amount of very important and instructive medical data in a very short period of time, and we think it's important that we share that for the benefit of everyone,” Sills said.

 

DIGITAL EXPERT DISHES ON TRENDS IN COLLEGE SPACE

  • The past five months have illustrated just how important a robust digital staff in the college ranks can be, writes SBJ's Michael Smith. COVID-19 took away games across the board last spring. Now the pandemic threatens the football season, yet the content continues to flow out of athletic departments and team accounts.

  • Smith caught up this week with Jason Matheson, founder of SkullSparks, a collegiate-focused digital/social shop, and asked him to identify trends he’s seeing in the college digital space.

  • One is that schools are embracing the branding of the individual athletes much more than ever before, a by-product of the name, image and likeness movement. “They really are putting resources behind their personal brands,” Matheson said. “You saw schools like Texas and Oklahoma on signing day build logos into their graphics that were specific to the signees. We’re going to see more of that. … It’s part of the power shift in college athletics to the athletes.”

  • For more from Matheson, see tonight's issue of SBJ College and Monday's print edition of SBJ.



PENGUINS TOP NHL FACEBOOK VIDEO VIEWS DURING SHUTDOWN

  • The Predators posted an average of more than three videos per day on the club’s Facebook page since the NHL shut down on March 12, the most in the league, according to data from Tubular Labs analyzed by SBJ's David Broughton. The Hurricanes, Wild, Senators and Flyers were on the other end of the spectrum, posting an average of one every other day.

  • When it came to actual video views, the Penguins (17.6 million) topped the list, while the Panthers, Coyotes and Senators were the only clubs to draw less than 1 million views over the 20-week period. The league’s Original Six clubs all finished in the top 10 among overall views, although the Red Wings did not make the playoffs.

  • The most-watched video of the COVID-19 era was the Preds’ “Do your part. Stay apart” (899,000 views), a PSA by the Tennessee Department of Health which featured former Pred Mike Fisher and Carrie Underwood.

 

NHL TEAMS ON FACEBOOK DURING SHUTDOWN (BY UPLOADS FROM MARCH 12-JULY 28)
TEAM
VIDEO VIEWS
UPLOADS
TEAM
VIDEO VIEWS
UPLOADS
Predators
4.1 million
436
Golden Kinghts
3.7 million
188
Devils*
2.4 million
330
Stars
2.3 million
188
Penguins
17.6 million
326
Blues
8.2 million
182
Avalanche
4.9 million
316
Red Wings*
8.9 million
178
Rangers
9.0 million
313
Sabres*
3.8 million
176
Flames
5.6 million
313
Panthers
545,000
166
Blackhawks
16.2 million
289
Oilers
7.9 million
145
Bruins
14.2 million
282
Canucks
5.4 million
143
Kings*
3.8 million
274
Coyotes
817,000
128
Islanders
2.2 million
266
Ducks*
1.4 million
97
Jets
9.0 million
247
Sharks*
1.8 million
91
Canadiens
11 million
245
Flyers
2.5 million
78
Maple Leafs
6.2 million
199
Senators*
681,000
63
Blue Jackets
1.7 million
198
Wild
1.6 million
61
Capitals
6.0 million
195
Hurricanes
1.2 million
53
Lightning
2.1 million
192
NOTE: * = Not in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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nhl

 

SUMMER PLANNING WITH CHAMP KELLY & CHRISTINE FRANKLIN

  • With 2020 forcing everyone across the industry to shift their calendars around, SBJ's Kody Timmers is catching up with execs, talent, team personnel and more to see how they are making the most of an unprecedented summer. Below, Bears Assistant Director of Player Personnel Champ Kelly and Octagon Exec VP/Marketing Christine Franklin dish on how they've been spending their free time and what future vacation they'd most like to take.
  • Bears' Champ Kelly:

    • Working on: "My wife and I started a nonprofit called Heart Power where we typically host youth football camps in the summer. However, due to COVID-19 precautions, we cannot physically meet with our campers. We are working to host a virtual camp with speakers that would serve to invest in our campers from multiple states. Heart Power also recently hosted a Black Lives Matters Cookout & Movement Discussion on June 28 in my hometown of Campbellton, Fla."
    • Future vacations: "I’m biased: I’m from North Florida and believe the Gulf beaches are some of the best in the world. We love Mexico Beach. It is small and serene. It is known as the forgotten coast. It was hit extremely hard by Hurricane Michael, but I love the resiliency and love of the people. It is family friendly and a great spot for our crew."

  • Octagon's Christine Franklin:

    • Working on"Home improvement has a new meaning these days. My projects have been centered around people and my family. Embracing life as it is right now with my three children, husband, dog, parents, colleagues, clients and friends. ... Early on in the quarantine we started taking family hikes exploring the many local trails. Exercise and nature have been great remedies for all that we are confronting on a daily basis.”
    • Future vacations"We enjoyed a fun-filled long weekend skiing at Mont-Tremblant (in Quebec) last winter with several friends from our town. The village, the skiing, the food and the people made the trip unforgettable. We just have to pack more glove warmers next time.”

 

 

Kelly's nonprofit hosting a Black Lives Matters cookout in Florida; Franklin and her family exploring some local trails
Kelly's nonprofit hosting a Black Lives Matters cookout in Florida; Franklin and her family exploring some local trails
Kelly's nonprofit hosting a Black Lives Matters cookout in Florida; Franklin and her family exploring some local trails

 

SPEED READS

  • The Cowboys and Buccaneers became the latest NFL teams to eliminate season tickets for the 2020 season in light of the pandemic, a further sign of pessimism growing around the potential for fans inside NFL stadiums, writes SBJ's Ben Fischer. Eight teams have now done away with season tickets altogether, asking those customers instead to opt in to possible single-game sales if allowed. The Cowboys and most other clubs have asked those fans if they want to opt in to those one-off sales or sit out entirely until 2021. The Bucs, however, automatically are rolling over accounts to ’21 and giving those fans access to single-game seats this year. If fans want refunds, they have to opt out by Aug. 9 and won’t have access to this year’s games.

NFL TEAMS OFFERING SEASON-TICKET REFUNDS
GIVE FANS NO-PENALTY DEFERRAL IF THEY WANT
Bills 
Patriots
Titans
Dolphins
Giants
Packers 
Texans
Jets
Eagles
Colts
Washington
Steelers
Browns
Seahawks
Saints
Bengals
Chargers
Broncos
Panthers
    Falcons    
Vikings
DEFERRING ALL SEASON TICKETS
Chiefs
Ravens
49ers
Jaguars
Bears
Rams
Cowboys
Buccaneers
 
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NFL Team Ticket Refund Policies
  • The three-game Blue Jays-Phillies series scheduled to begin with a doubleheader Saturday "will not occur" after a Phillies coach and clubhouse attendant tested positive for the coronavirus. The Phillies "have been off all week," as they had their four-game home-and-home series with the Yankees postponed. The Phillies had been having "scattered workouts at Citizens Bank Park this week" after hosting the Marlins on opening weekend, per NBC Sports Philadelphia. All activity at Citizens Bank Park is canceled until further notice.
  • The PGA Tour is "reporting no positive COVID cases among players or caddies" at this week's WGC event in Memphis and opposite field event near Lake Tahoe. ESPN's Bob Harig notes that is "approximately 425 players and caddies combined." Through 8 weeks, there have been 10 reported positive cases (7 players 3 caddies) on tour.

  • The NHL, NHLPA, Hockey Canada and Bauer Hockey are partnering to launch the Hockey Equipment Relief Program, an initiative that’ll include $2 million worth of hockey gear being donated to help families and kids financially impacted by COVID-19. The country’s seven NHL teams along with Hockey Canada and provincial governing bodies will carry out the new equipment program, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns

 

 

SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD

 

 

Something related to coronavirus and sports business catch your eye? Tell us about it. Reach out to Austin Karp (akarp@sportsbusinessjournal.com) and we'll share the best of it.