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Volume 27 No. 87

SBJ Unpacks: Garber Preaches "Hard Deadline" In MLS CBA Talks

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: Don Garber gives an update on the MLS CBA negotiations.

  • Will tightened protocols get NBA season back on track?
  • An in-depth look at NHL sponsors for this season
  • Data shows Canadian NHL clubs lead growth on Twitter
  • Oak View Group pleased with progress on NHL arenas
  • Mike Whan plays coy with potential USGA role
  • Nielsen Gracenote finding fans where they are with new offering

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Don Garber Preaches "Hard Deadline" For CBA Negotiating Period

MLS is still waiting for a response from the MLSPA regarding its proposed two-year CBA extension, nearly one week after the league's initial proposal, according to Commissioner Don Garber, who addressed media this afternoon.

The proposed extension, which would take the current CBA through 2027, included no player salary cuts, writes SBJ's Mark J. Burns. Garber said the 30-day negotiating period is a “hard deadline” for the players and union. There are 20 days remaining to negotiate, with Garber stating that “there has to be a real sense of urgency.” 

Garber also addressed the league’s investigation into Dell Loy Hansen, owner of Utah Soccer Holdings: “We found that Dell Hoy Hansen had engaged in conduct that was inappropriate for the workplace, and it was contrary to the values of Major League Soccer and Real Salt Lake." According to Garber, MLS took over the sale of Real Salt Lake this week and is hopeful the club will be sold in 2021.

Will Tightened Protocols Get NBA Season Back On Track?

The NBA and the NBPA announced new health and safety protocols as COVID-related game postponements increase, reports SBJ's John Lombardo. Players must wear facemasks on the bench at all times and the league for the next two weeks will require players and staff to stay at home at all times except for team-related activities at arenas or practice facilities, outside exercise or to conduct essential activities. Players and team staff during road trips will be prohibited from leaving their hotel other than for team activities or emergencies. Players are prohibited from interacting with non-team guests at the hotel. Read more from Lombardo here.

Reactions to the tightened protocols were mixed on Twitter this afternoon. SI's Rohan Nadkarni: "The NBA’s new rules make sense in that to minimize risk, players would go nowhere except to games/team activities. but enforcement is difficult, and once everyone’s family gets involved...I'm interested to see how much of a difference this could actually make."  S.F. Chronicle's Ann Killion: "The fact that the NBA is just now restricting visits from non team members to hotels is pretty shocking."

ESPN's Brian Windhorst, Tim Bontemps and Bobby Marks write under the header, "What We Know And Don't Know About The Updated NBA Health And Safety Protocols."

NHL Spons-O-Meter: Who's On Board For The 2021 Season?

The NHL begins the 2020-2021 season tomorrow with 14 U.S.-only sponsors, up from 11 last year. Newcomers include Anheuser Busch (non-exclusive to co-exist with Boston Beer Company), Guaranteed Rate and Verizon, which came on as the official 5G sponsor of the NHL last September

Guaranteed Rate, the league's first official mortgage sponsor in the U.S., will have branding around tentpole events such as the Stanley Cup playoffs and Final as well as advertising spots focused on the brand’s "Believe You Will" campaign. Guaranteed Rate negotiated directly with the NHL’s business development group on the deal, per SBJ's Mark J. Burns. Meanwhile, NHL Exec VP/Business Development & Innovation David Lehanski told Burns that the league “engaged with all of the major carriers in the country” before striking a deal with Verizon.

Also new this season are four sponsors for the names of the new four divisions in the NHL's re-aligned schedule: MassMutual (East Division), Scotiabank (North Division), Discover (Central Division) and Honda (West Division). The move, just for this season, comes as league revenues are taking a hit during the pandemic due to lack of fan attendance.

Be sure to see tomorrow's issue of SBD for a full breakdown of the NHL's official 2021 partners.

Data Shows Canadian NHL Clubs Lead Growth On Twitter

Four Canadian NHL clubs added the most followers on Twitter during the league’s offseason, according to data provided to SBJ by Zoomph, a Reston, Va.-based company that specializes in social audience intelligence and sponsorship tracking. The tracked period includes Oct. 1-Dec. 31, per SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. 

The Maple Leafs gained 8,358 followers during the three-month span while the Canadiens added 8,335 followers, followed by the Oilers at 7,000. The Canucks and Stars rounded out the top five. On Instagram, the Penguins came in at No. 1, adding 36,210 followers. Meanwhile, when examining follower growth as a percentage of total followers, the Hurricanes finished at No. 1 on Twitter (0.93%), and the Penguins ranked first (2.15%) on Instagram. 

Oak View Group Pleased With Progress On NHL Arenas

Nine months away from the opening of Climate Pledge Arena (Seattle) and UBS Arena (New York), Oak View Group is making solid progress on its total revenue goals, OVG President of Global Partnerships Dan Griffis told SBJ’s Bret McCormick. The company has surpassed the 70% mark for Climate Pledge Arena, with 11 partners signed on at what will be the home of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken. Amazon is behind the novel naming rights sponsorship, one focused on raising money and awareness about climate change.

Griffis is pleased with the progress at the two arenas, which includes more than 20 other partners that haven’t been announced yet and a combined $1.5 billion in revenue during the last 15 months.  “Our ability to hit our targets in the COVID environment speaks to the overall story we have to tell,” Griffis said.

Climate Pledge Arena partners: Amazon, Alaska Airlines, Boston Beer/Truly, Kraken Rum, Liuna, Muckleshoot, PitchBook, Premera, Symetra, Virginia Mason and WaFd Bank

UBS Arena partners: UBS and Northwell Health 

Mike Whan Plays Coy With Potential USGA Role

Outgoing LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan today did not shoot down possible interest in the USGA CEO role soon to be vacated by Mike Davis later this year, but Whan also acknowledged opportunities that may present themselves outside the golf industry. Whan, when asked about the USGA possibility, told ESPN's Bob Harig: "It's certainly premature. I think for any job it requires a cleanse of my brain and requires both parties to think it's a good idea. I feel like there will be opportunities in golf, and I certainly think there will be opportunities in sports that are worth a solid look on both sides. ... But I feel like I need to get through this transition to be fair to somebody else.''

The USGA is a "non-profit behemoth that operates 14 championships but relies almost exclusively on revenue derived from the U.S. Open to run its tournaments and various grow-the-game programs." Harig: "If nothing else, Whan is certainly well-positioned to offer the USGA a boost as it relates to the women's game."

Nielsen Gracenote Finding Fans Where They Are With New Offering

Enhanced information and context around sports are the driving forces behind Nielsen Gracenote’s new widgets offering designed to integrate real-time team stats, recent game results and live updates to TV and video home screens and auto infotainment systems.

Officially unveiled around the first-ever all-virtual Consumer Electronics Show, Nielsen Gracenote Sports Senior VP/Product Management David Faulknor today indicated that the new tech will allow for showing what the current status of a game is, as well as enabling game-start notifications and, “in the future potentially, exciting game notifications.” Faulknor: “The goal behind this is it’s easy to implement. It’s a little bit more than a few lines of code but a little less than a massive API integration.”

For more insights from Faulknor, check out today’s “SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead” podcast with our Andrew Levin.

Speed Reads

  • An expanded Wild Card weekend led to lower average viewership for the NFL, but the move from four games to six meant overall consumption increased, writes SBJ's Austin Karp. The games this past weekend across Fox, NBC, CBS, Nickelodeon, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and Freeform averaged around 24.2 million viewers. Last year, four games across ABC, ESPN, Fox, NBC and CBS averaged 30.5 million viewers. However, there were over 28 billion minutes consumed of NFL Wild Card action in 2021, up 16% from the same weekend last season. The Ravens-Titans megacast on ESPN, ABC, ESPN2 and Freeform averaged 24.8 million. That is the least-watched 1pm Sunday Wild Card since Ravens-Dolphins in 2013. It was the first time ESPN/ABC did not have the 4pm Saturday window since it got a playoff game in 2015. Last season, ESPN/ABC averaged 26.3 million for Texans-Bills. Click here for more.

  • Across Fanatics’ network of licensed sports e-commerce sites, which includes NFL.com, there was more Browns merch sold during Sunday’s 48-37 win over the Steelers than in the prior two days combined. Terry Lefton has the full story today in the SBJ Marketing newsletter.

  • Former NBAer-turned-investor Baron Davis is part of an $8.2 million Series A funding round announced today for L.A.-based Muniq, a consumer health and food-tech brand. Davis last month also came out as part of a group seeking to acquire the Reebok brand from Adidas. He talked with SBJ in 2019 about his path from NBA All-Star to entrepreneur.

  • UFC fighter Dustin Poirier, whose fight against Conor McGregor on Jan. 23 will headline UFC 257 from Fight Island on ABC/ESPN+, has signed on to be a brand ambassador for the Celsius fitness drink.

News From Sports Business Daily

Tonight, select stories from Sports Business Daily are free, outside the paywall. Below are the headlines: