10 TO WATCH WEEK OF 1/2/16


  1. September looms as a referendum on the U.S. by the, IOC. This is third Olympics bid attempt by the U.S in the past 12 years.  The ongoing summer Olympics bid process, putting Los Angeles front and center, will be a story to watch in 2017 as the IOC decides on a host, whether LA, Paris, or Budapest, to deliver the Games — hopefully without adding to the Olympics’ growing list of crises and scandals.  The election of the Host City 2024 is scheduled to be announced at the 130th International Olympic Committee session in Lima, Peru on September 13. Look for a successful U.S. 2024 announcement – especially with the infrastructure mostly in place in Los Angeles (a very low risk selection for the IOC).


  1. The 2017-2018 NBA season marks the first year that teams can sell advertisements on players’ jerseys.  StubHub was the first brand to buy this inventory, and their ads will be seen on Philadelphia 76ers jerseys. That deal is reported to be $5 million a year for three seasons. “This is strategic beachhead property for us,” StubHub CEO Scott Cutler said. “We, as a company, have been very transaction-oriented. We want to be more a part of the emotional experience fans have with their teams, and we think a deal like this gets us closer.” Clearly, a bold move for StubHub, but also new revenue for the NBA and a potential model for other leagues as well.


  1. The Oakland Raiders stadium situation changes daily – as does the fate of the Chargers in San Diego. Will the Raiders relocate to Las Vegas, or will Oakland’s municipal leadership find a way to keep the franchise in town?  Meanwhile, the Chargers have a 2017 option deadline to either move to Los Angeles and share the new Ram’s stadium in Inglewood or salvage a stadium deal of their own in San Diego. The latter in each case is to be expected, as there is always a last-minute effort to keep NFL teams in their respective markets before committing to relocation. Regardless, 2017 will be ripe with NFL relocation storylines. The Chargers now likely move to L.A. within the next three months and the Raiders probably stay in Oakland (buying a year or two to put their stadium deal together).


  1. 2017 is a big year for the NHL – the league will celebrate its 100th year anniversary. This centennial year also marks the addition of an expansion franchise in Las Vegas playing in the new T-Mobile Arena.  With Wayne Gretzky as its centennial ambassador, the league will host its All-Star Game in Los Angeles on January 29th, and commemorate its founding November 26. Also on the docket for 2017, the NHL will decide on whether to allow its players to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics.  Great plans for the NHL, starting with the Los Angeles All-Star Game, and an expansion move in Vegas that will be successful like Phoenix and South Florida.


  1. Such platforms as The Player’s Tribune, Unscriptd, Slyce, and Uninterrupted will increase their reach and media significance. These athlete-owned platforms drive storytelling right from the source. This new era in journalism allows for a unique opportunity for brands to sponsor or generally get involved with authentic dialogue athletes deem important. Fans win out too, as they gain never-before-seen access to the athlete agenda. New content forms will allow players to develop unique, unlimited access that should generate additional revenue and exclusivity.


  1. “Disruptive innovation” cemented itself as a buzzword in business vernacular this past year, and for good reason. In 2017, disruption penetrates into the allied sports industries of tech and media. Venture funding in sports tech startups has a current growth rate of 30% per annum, with multinational brands activating their own investment arms in the space. The trend of athletes, both current and retired, as angel investors also continues to rise. More startups with more mergers and an improved business climate translate to higher net worth for sports entrepreneurs and sports businesses.


  1. Last year inched a little bit closer to gender equality in sport – let’s continue to move the needle in 2017. There is much more work to be done, but here are some highlights: we celebrated the 20-year anniversary of the WNBA; “leaning in” is at all-time high; we saw social movements like Girls For STEM, and a push for workplace equality.  The discerning issue of the wage gap was raised in the tennis community, and then pushed further when TEAM USA soccer spoke out.  Another positive development was the summer announcement of the Indy in Tech Championship coordinated, presented, and sponsored by Guggenheim Life. The LPGA event debuts Labor Day weekend in Indianapolis, and provides unparalleled benefit for workforce training, robotics, STEM, and other positives. Gender equity is still elusive, but there were many moments last year where it was supported rather than tossed aside, and that’s a good thing. Let’s keep it going in the new year.


  • The cleanup and aftermath of FIFA corruption will dominate global soccer headlines in 2017. Extraditions and prosecutions are still underway of FIFA officials guilty of racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering, and more. The award of the Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 World Cups are both still being investigated for bribery, and despite former FIFA head Sepp Blatter’s ban from international soccer, investigations into his actions continue. Russia will be on center stage as its ability to deliver first class stadiums in 2018 will be the main focus. As for Qatar, the bid process might even be reopened…but probably not in 2017.


  1. Sport will continue to be used as a vehicle for change.  Like last year, when athletes at all levels turned to their sport to peacefully raise issues. Colin Kaepernick kneeled in protest, Dwyane Wade, Kyle Korver, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony pushed for social unity amidst the Black Lives Matter movement, cleats were worn in support of the country by Odell Beckham, Jr. and others. Athletes drove discussion on social media, in our communities, and elsewhere – whether you agree or disagree with whatever cause, the influence of sport is ever present. Hopefully, all sports fans and non-sports fans alike recognize rights granted under the First Amendment, but also understand the responsibilities of role models as well. How will this manifest itself in 2017? How will brands capitalize on this?


  1. Major media rights are locked up for the next five years or so for the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, and most major college conferences.  This means non-traditional rights will be leveraged in 2017 and moving forward.Digital properties like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and YouTube will continue to add sports programming.  Long-tail programming, live streams, and original content consumed in new ways will continue to innovate to match the shifting market. Look for one of the “marquee digital properties” to land a significant rights deal with a major league. This will lead to higher rights fees for all (just like DirecTV pushed the envelope with all major networks in the last NFL round.)


  1. Legalization of sports gambling will be an even hotter issue, as leagues continue to look more aggressively for the next big revenue bucket. The question, a billion dollar one, remains – when will sports betting on baseball or any sport become legal outside of Nevada in the United States? “We have heard the President-elect (Donald Trump) say numerous times that he is supportive of repealing PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) and making sports betting legal as a way to bring more into the economy, and we are very encouraged by that,” says Geoff Freeman, CEO of the American Gaming Association. The AGA continues to be more proactive in pushing for reform and legalization of sports betting, and that the topic is compelling enough for Congress to conduct hearings in 2017. The line between illegal sports betting and legal fantasy will become even more blurred, as more money exchanges hands in legal forms of betting.