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Volume 27 No. 5
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SBJ Unpacks: NFL Takes The Stage

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: The NFL season is here after the league navigated an offseason unlike any other in its history.

Also:

  • How will NFL viewership fare amid an election year?
  • Sources say upcoming NBA season won't start before Christmas
  • Sen. Chris Murphy on the collegiate athletic system
  • Could the ACC's ambitious NCAA Tourney proposal work?
  • NHL playoffs delivering social sponsorship value
  • ATP/WTA build out schedules for rest of the year

 

HOW THE NFL GOT HERE

  • When the pandemic hit in March, some coaches, GMs and execs suggested the NFL delay the start of free agency. Or the Draft. Those notions fell on deaf ears at the league's Park Ave. HQ, and in hindsight, delaying those activities only would have made it harder to get to today, the scheduled kickoff. It was the first sign of how the NFL would approach this crisis, writes SBJ's Ben Fischer.

  • Early on, Commissioner Roger Goodell developed a pandemic operating philosophy that hasn’t really changed: Conduct as much business as possible under the new conditions, don’t make hard decisions until you have to and keep your medical experts by your side at all times. It was a deliberate path, one that used every minute available to get things right.

  • It hasn’t been perfect. The NFL kept insisting it was working toward “full stadiums” long after it was clear to most outsiders that such an idea couldn’t happen, causing some frustrations among season-ticket holders and venue operators.

  • But the bottom line is a clear success: Of the countless ways the season could have been delayed, none came to pass. Now it’s time for the hard part.

 

NFL COMES INTO 2020 WITH REGULAR-SEASON VIEWERSHIP REBOUNDING

  • The NFL comes into the regular season on the heels of two straight seasons of 5% viewership growth, with ESPN, CBS, Fox and NBC all seeing gains in 2019, notes SBJ’s Austin Karp. Games averaged 16.5 million viewers across all networks last season (including games on NFL Network), the same as in 2016, the last presidential election year.

  • Always closely watched, ratings figure to be a massive talking point in the political context. Conservative critics of the league will jump on any decline to paint the NFL as out of touch for allowing player social justice protests, without regard to the actual reasons. 

  • For more on how NFL viewership will fare, see the SBJ Football newsletter.

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

  • During this crisis impacting the sports business, we want everyone to be up-to-date on the latest news and information. Tonight, the entire NFL preview section from Sports Business Daily is available for free, outside the paywall. Below are today's headlines:

    • Cautious Optimism For NFL Season After Well-Handled Offseason
    • Texans, Chiefs Likely To Stage Some Form Of Demonstration Tonight
    • Goodell, Smith Confident NFL Can Foster Change On Social Issues
    • Poll Finds Majority Of Football Fans Support Anthem Kneeling
    • Chiefs To Integrate "Subtle" Changes Within Native American Imagery
    • Ticket Demand For Chiefs, Jaguars Home Games Surprisingly Low
    • Santa Clara Stadium Authority Board Seeks $5M In Rent From 49ers
    • Survey: Diminished Fervor For NFL Signals Less Gambling On League
    • NFL TV Reporters Face New Challenge With No Field Access
    • Nissan Bringing "Heisman House" To NFL Broadcasts For First Time
    • Washington Football's Jason Wright Talks New Era
    • NFL Franchise Notes: Broncos Launching Social Justice Initiatives

 

 

SOURCES: NBA WON'T START 2020-2021 SEASON BEFORE CHRISTMAS

  • The NBA informed its Board of Governors today that the 2020-2021 season "won't begin" before Christmas Day, according to sources cited by The Athletic's Shams Charania. The season start date and a possible NBA Draft on Nov. 18 "remain fluid."

  • Meanwhile, sources told the N.Y. Post that the season opener will "almost certainly be pushed back until after Jan. 1 -- with no consensus on even the month." One NBA source said that some league execs "would like to see next season’s opener land on Martin Luther King Day on Jan. 18 -- considering the climate of the times." Other sources have "suggested the NBA is completely open-minded about a starting date for February -- and March has not been completely ruled out either." 

 

ACC'S ALL-INCLUSIVE TOURNEY LACKS NCAA BACKING

  • The ACC's proposal for an all-inclusive NCAA men's basketball tournament that would feature every D-I team "does not currently have the backing of the event's leadership," per ESPN

  • NCAA Senior VP/Basketball Dan Gavitt in a statement today said, "While all who care about the game are entitled to their opinion, and we'll always listen respectfully, at this time we are not working on any contingency plan that involves expanding the tournament field." Sources said that there are concerns "about the costs attached to a tournament that would be more than five times larger than the current field."

  • USA Today's Dan Wolken writes the fact that this idea comes from the ACC "lends it a lot of credibility." SI.com's Pat Forde: "A lot of people hate the concept. I kind of love it." At the very least, the "sentiment behind it is laudable." This "isn’t a Participation Trophy Syndrome situation: It’s been a hellish year for college athletes; why not look for ways to make their experience better?" 


FIRST TWO ROUNDS OF NHL PLAYOFFS GENERATE $14.5 MILLION IN SOCIAL SPONSORSHIP VALUE

  • Through the first two rounds of the NHL playoffs, $14.5 million in social media sponsorship value was generated for the top-performing brands and sponsors, according to data provided to SBJ by Hookit, a social media measurement firm. 

  • Among the top four brands, two were hockey-specific, with Bauer at No. 1 and CCM at No. 4, respectively. Bauer received over $1.1 million in value across a time period from Aug. 1 through Sept. 6. Eight social media platforms were analyzed, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube and Twitch, among others. Of the top 10, three car brands were represented, including Honda at No. 2, Toyota at No. 9 and Lexus at No. 10. 

  • Other key noteworthy social media stats: 

    • Since Aug. 1, the Canucks have generated the most brand value for sponsors at nearly $1.6 million.
    • Over the past six weeks, the Flyers and Canucks have generated the most video views on social, each totaling over 15 million.
    • $3 million: the cumulative brand value generated on social media by the four remaining franchises.

  • Meanwhile, Zoomph, a firm specializing in social audience intelligence and sponsorship measurement, crunched numbers for the second round alone, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. The Bruins, Flyers and Canucks were the top three teams on Instagram in terms of engagements per post from Aug. 22 through Sept. 6. Across Twitter, the Stars led the way followed by the Bruins and Canucks. On Facebook, the Golden Knights had the highest engagement rate (2.14%) of the eight teams. 


U.S. SEN. CHRIS MURPHY LOOKS TO TAKE ON COLLEGIATE SYSTEM

  • Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is part of a group of U.S. senators who have developed the framework to propose a “College Athletes Bill of Rights,” which will aim to deliver fair and equitable compensation, enforceable safety standards and improved educational opportunities for all college athletes.

  • Murphy told SBJ's Andrew Levin that the bill will “attack” a collegiate athletics system which has “gotten enormous, and the amount of money that largely white males have been making off of the essentially free labor of largely African-American young men, is getting to disgustingly high levels.”

  • He pointed out that college sports “doesn’t look any different on TV or in person than professional athletics,” as the “only difference is the people who are putting the product on the field aren’t getting compensated.” Murphy concluded, “That, to me, is a civil rights issue.”

  • Murphy also addressed the future of college sports in a post-pandemic world. "Ultimately, I think there probably will be some sorting process that happens, in which certain college programs decide that they want to be the minor leagues for the NFL and NBA, and as part of that, they allow for their students to get endorsement deals; they provide some modest level of compensation or stipend. And then, a whole bunch of other schools that decide they don’t want to be in that business … will step back and sort of right-size their sports programs.”

  • For more from Murphy on shifting power dynamics across college sports, as well as his involvement with the College Athletes Bill of Rights, check out the latest “SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead” podcast.

 

ATP/WTA BUILD OUT 2020 CALENDARS

  • The ATP and WTA tours added more tournaments to their 2020 schedules as they work to salvage pandemic-wracked seasons, writes SBJ's Bret McCormick. More than 60 ATP, WTA and combined tournaments have been canceled so far this year, with dozens more moved to different dates.

  • The ATP announced four more single-year licenses have been issued to 250-level tournaments in Cologne, Germany (back-to-back events), Kazakhstan and Sardinia, Italy. All four tournaments will be held in October. Including this week’s U.S. Open and Generali Open in Austria, the ATP has 15 events on its schedule. That includes eight 250s, three 500s, two 1000s, the French Open and the Tour Finals.

  • On the women’s side, the Czech Republic will host its third event of the salvaged season with the J&T Bank Ostrava Open the week of Oct. 19. The Premier level tournament will offer $528,500 in prize money and follows two tournaments in Prague, one of which was a 125K-level event, the level below the full WTA Tour. The WTA now has 13 tournaments on its revised calendar, though the Hana Bank Korea Open, Upper Austria Ladies Linz and the VTB Kremlin Cup don’t have set dates yet. 

 

SPEED READS

  • Why were Colorado administrators OK with a schoolwide deal with gambling outfit PointsBet? Education and employment components were key. Michael Smith breaks down how the deal came about in tonight’s SBJ College.

  • Hulu tonight during Chiefs-Texans on NBC will debut its latest “Hulu Sellouts” ad spot featuring Browns QB Baker Mayfield and Giants RB Saquon Barkley, plus a cameo at the end by the 76ers' Joel Embiid. The new 30-second national ad is the latest installment from Hulu's national marketing campaign featuring athletes from the NBA, USWNT and NFL

  • EPL execs said that Black Lives Matter badges on team shirts will be replaced by patches promoting the organization's own anti-discrimination campaign, per the AFP. The badges were worn by players last season "following the global protests sparked by the death of George Floyd." However, the Black Lives Matter group in Britain has been accused of anti-Semitism and criticized over calls to defund the police.

  • The Washington Football Team has launched a "fan-focused ad campaign titled 'No Name but TEAM' that will highlight the organization’s full roster," marking the team's first "major creative work since dropping" its former name nearly two months ago, per Ad Age.


SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD

 

 

 

--- AXS SPORTS FACILITIES & FRANCHISES & TICKETING SYMPOSIUM ---

Sept. 22-23, 2020

Virtual Program

Announcing the 2020 AXS Sports Facilities & Franchises & Ticketing Symposium agenda.  To view the agenda or to learn more, visit www.SportsFacilitiesandFranchises.com.

 

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.