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Volume 27 No. 26
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SBJ Unpacks: NFL Punts On Pro Bowl

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: The NFL cancels the 2021 Pro Bowl, increasing the likelihood of "Week 18" to accommodate COVID-related postponements. 

  • Raiders look to host Super Bowl LVIII in 2024
  • LA28 CMO talks strategy behind multiple logos
  • JPMorgan Chase exec on activating at tennis' fanless U.S. Open
  • Hollywood ambitions underscore Ninja's move to CAA
  • Amazon to stream NFL Wild Card Game produced by CBS

 

NFL CANCELS PRO BOWL; RAIDERS INTERESTED IN HOSTING SB LVIII

  • The NFL today canceled the 2021 Pro Bowl, giving it flexibility to add a week to the regular season without moving Super Bowl LV from Feb. 7, writes SBJ's Ben Fischer.

  • In a statement after an owners’ meeting today, the NFL said, “The league will work closely with the NFLPA and other partners, to create a variety of engaging activities to replace the Pro Bowl game this season.” They promised a virtual recognition of players who are selected to Pro Bowl rosters through the usual means, including a fan vote that starts Nov. 17. The game had been slated for Jan. 31 at Allegiant Stadium, one week before Super Bowl LV during the postseason bye week.

  • With the cancellation, a “Week 18” could be added to the regular season to accommodate COVID-19 related postponements without affecting the Super Bowl. Owners also agreed today that the 2022 Pro Bowl should be at Allegiant, assuming that game can be played. Even aside from the possible need for an extended regular season, team and league sources had long considered the Pro Bowl to be in jeopardy of being canceled because it would require travel and lodging for hundreds of players and staff for an exhibition game. 

  • Meanwhile, the Raiders have expressed their interest in hosting Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium in 2024, a source told Fischer. NFL owners created an opening in the Super Bowl schedule today by approving a plan to shift New Orleans’ hosting duties from 2024 to 2025 to avoid a Mardi Gras conflict. New Orleans was selected in 2018 to host in 2024, which would be its 11th time hosting. But in March, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to add a 17th game to the regular season -- which would push the 2024 Super Bowl from Feb. 4 to Feb. 11, just two days before Mardi Gras.


The Raiders have expressed their interest in hosting Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium in 2024

 

LA28 CMO TALKS LAUNCH, STRATEGY BEHIND MULTIPLE LOGOS

  • LA28 CMO Amy Gleeson yesterday at the virtual Intersport Brand Innovation Summit broke down what she called the “fairly top secret” process through which the committee created and rolled out its official logos. The series of 26 distinct logos -- unveiled Sept. 1 -- involves the L, the 2, and the 8 being static, and each version of a logo with a different dynamic A, and each one designed alongside athletes and celebrities.

  • Gleeson stressed multiple logos made sense for the group because there is “not any one way to talk about Los Angeles.” She explained, “We wanted to ensure that we had a real collection of voices … Olympians, Paralympians, artists, entertainers and local community activists, all of whom could bring their unique perspective and vision to life.”

  • Gleeson said of working with non-athletes, including Reese Witherspoon, Billie Eilish and graffiti artist Chaz Bojorquez: “L.A. is, obviously, the center of entertainment and Hollywood. We knew we wanted to have a nod to that.”

  • Toward the end of the discussion, Gleeson looked toward the eight-year runway LA28 has to unveil new and expanded logos. “We have limitless possibilities, but at the same time, we need to make sure that we are very thoughtful in how we execute and how we roll out updates,” Gleeson said. She indicated brand-specific versions of the LA28 logo, as well as a plan for fans to design their own versions, are “on the roadmap, for sure.” 

 

JPMORGAN CHASE'S FRANK NAKANO ON ACTIVATING AT FANLESS U.S. OPEN

  • JPMorgan Chase Managing Director of Sports & Entertainment Marketing Frank Nakano said the prospects of fanless U.S. Open tennis“sounded terrible” when the notion was first discussed. But conversations between the USTA and Chase, specifically the host’s Ask Us Anything calls, helped pave a path forward.

  • Nakano, appearing at the Intersport Brand Innovation Summit, said, “They were candid and open, and early on, there were some things they didn't know either. ... A tournament with no fans is less valuable to all of us than a tournament (with) fans. But that said, we were all very excited that it was going to go on as planned and we could sort of adjust accordingly.” 

  • Nakano said Chase, like everyone, pivoted to a virtual experience at the U.S. Open. He said, "We bucketed in really three different categories. Our high-end, high touchpoint clients. And then we did something more for any customer, sort of replacing the 'Chase Lounge' experience that we try to offer onsite." The third tier was "people that may not be necessarily tennis fans, or really ever get a chance to participate or come to New York to be a part of that." Nakano: "It was a really interesting, as a marketer, set of dilemmas to try to solve for."

  • As businesses and events attempt to move back toward pre-COVID operations, which elements of these past few months continue? Nakano said, “How do we change the experience for fans, for attendees, for viewers? We've always talked about that. ... It's always been about security, but now there's a whole other layer of security, right? … How do we come onto this better and not just sort of repeating the same programs that we have in the past?"

 

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

 

 

HOLLYWOOD AMBITIONS UNDERSCORE NINJA'S MOVE TO CAA

  • Tyler “Ninja” Blevins’ ambitions to elevate himself from well-known gamer to entertainment icon were already well known, but the announcement this week that he is switching his representation to CAA is the clearest declaration yet, writes SBJ’s Adam Stern.

  • The L.A.-based Loaded had announced a multiyear extension with Blevins in March 2019, and the firm did everything from negotiate his move to Mixer and eventual return to Twitch, to signing countless other business opportunities as they worked to elevate his brand. Popdog COO Josh Swartz, whose company owns Loaded, told SBJ last December that the agency was working to place Blevins in movies and TV shows to cement his status as the Tony Hawk of gaming. 

  • Gaming industry execs said they viewed this move as indicative of Blevins’ desire to grow his presence even more, under the thinking that a mega agency like CAA can elevate him in a way that a gaming-focused agency couldn’t. CAA and Blevins announced the move through a story with The Hollywood Reporter, underscoring the audience that they were trying to reach with the news. 

  • CAA did not name an agent who will solely represent Blevins, as it takes a more team-like approach. THR said that Blevins would also still be managed by his wife, Jessica Blevins, and attorney Arash Khalili of Loeb & Loeb.

  • While Blevins’ competitive achievements in gaming are sometimes questioned by critics, his status as the most-known streamer in the U.S. has been virtually unassailable. Moving forward, the gaming industry will be keeping an eye on how CAA can further elevate his brand.

 

AMAZON TO STREAM NFL WILD CARD GAME PRODUCED BY CBS

  • Amazon will stream one of the two new NFL Wild Card playoff games planned for this season -- specifically the one that will be produced by CBS, sources confirmed to SBJ's John Ourand.

  • The deal, which was disclosed during today’s owner’s meeting but is not ready to be announced formally, comes on the heels of the tech company’s 11-game deal for “TNF” that it shares with Fox Sports. Amazon also will carry one game exclusively in Week 15 or 16 this season; the league has not decided which game that will be. The CBS Wild Card game also will be carried on CBS All-Access and Nickelodeon.

  • The Wall Street Journal was first with this news. Tonight’s issue of SBJ Media will have more on the deal.

 

SPEED READS

  • Alabama football coach Nick Saban and AD Greg Byrne have tested positive for the coronavirus, per a statement late this afternoon from the university. Both Saban and Byrne "left the facility immediately and went home to self-isolate." Saban said he is "asymptomatic at this time and was tested twice to confirm the first positive result," per WRBL.com.
  • The NBA Playoffs' viewership was predictably down sharply from its normal spring spot on the calendar, including a record-low figure for the NBA Finals, reports SBJ's Austin Karp. The declines for the NBA postseason are in line with the drops for other big sports properties, including the MLB Divisional Series (-40%), NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs (-61%), U.S. Open tennis (-45%), Kentucky Derby (-43%), college football (-30%) and U.S. Open golf (-42%). For the full breakdown, click here.


  • The potential merger between SPAC RedBall Acquisition Corp. and Fenway Sports Group is a "complicated deal, potentially worth billions," and if it is "ultimately consummated, it would have a wide-ranging impact, some of which can't yet be fully known," according to the Boston Sports Journal's Sean McAdam. In theory, the RedBall-FSG deal "could provide more working capital with which to operate" the Red Sox. But, due to its "international appeal, investing in soccer teams may prove more lucrative."

  • Saturday's scheduled LSU-Florida football game in Gainesville "has been postponed after the Gators have seen a surge in positive COVID-19 tests this week." The game has "tentatively been rescheduled for the SEC's built-in bye week on Dec. 12." UF AD Scott Stricklin said that the program has had 18 positives among players; Florida "shut down its football program on Tuesday after a number of tests came back positive." This is the "second game this week that has been postponed in the SEC, joining Missouri-Vanderbilt."


  • The NCAA today announced more than 450 selections of host sites for championship events, most coming between 2022-2023 and 2025-2026, and one of the more significant announcements was that Las Vegas will host an NCAA men’s basketball regional in 2023. It marks the city’s first NCAA event since the organization “changed a policy that prevented states with sports wagering from hosting championships.” Las Vegas also will host the 2026 Frozen Four. The NCAA also awarded WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. the D-I semifinal and final rounds for men’s soccer (2022, 2025); women’s lacrosse (2023, 2024);  and women’s soccer (2022, 2023, 2024). It is the most of any venue named in the NCAA’s announcement, per SBJ's David Broughton. For the complete breakdown, see today's issue of Closing Bell.

 



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.