1. The Masters has a new champion, and he’s likely the least popular victor in recent history. 27- year-old Patrick Reed won a tense battle down the back nine stretch not with playing partner Rory McIlroy, but with come-from-behind challengers Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth. With the win, Reed can tuck $1.98 million away in the pocket of his new green jacket, adding to his $20,108,933 in previous career earnings. (Runner up Fowler pocketed $1.19 million.) However, the latest Masters champion is not without controversy. He left the University of Georgia golf team under allegations of cheating and theft, landing at Augusta State. On tour, he’s brash and bombastic. He once had his parents escorted away from the U.S. Open. And for a guy who’s been on tour for seven years with seven wins under his belt, his sponsor portfolio is pretty sparse: besides Callaway and Nike Golf (which made him wear pink on Sunday alongside all its other players save Tiger, even though he preferred red), Reed has only Hublot and Ultimate Software backing him. That said, every sport needs a villain (see: Yankees, Patriots) and with so many fans rooting against him in favor of far more popular players McIlroy, Spieth, and Fowler, expect the final round ratings for the 2018 Masters to soar.
2. Despite this year’s edition of The Masters coming to an end, the excitement is already beginning to build for next year’s newest event at Augusta: the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship. According to Yahoo! Sports, Augusta National Golf Club has decided to create the first women’s event in club history, debuting a week before the 2019 Masters. The first two rounds of the tournament will take place at the nearby Champions Retreat Golf Club, “so not to interfere with preparation for the Masters,” though the final round will take place at Augusta National. Adding a women’s tournament to the mix is expected to have a “seismic impact on the growth and popularity of the game” going forward. This tournament is also “unlikely to be the last step, either” under the leadership of new Augusta National Chair Fred Ridley. The event will be televised globally and will be available on accompanying digital platforms, though no specifics have yet been mentioned regarding those plans. While the new event is receiving an enthusiastic response, one group that’s not so excited about it are some current LPGA players, who are not eligible to compete in this amateur event.
3. Conor McGregor’s bizarre altercation at the Barclays Center, resulting in his arrest, has surely irreparably damaged the UFC star’s image. According to Business Insider, McGregor was charged with assault after two UFC fighters were hospitalized in the incident and a video showed McGregor throwing a guard rail through a window on a moving bus. “The Conor McGregor charges include three counts of assault and one count of criminal mischief,” confirmed a NYPD spokesman. The two-time UFC world champion stormed a UFC press conference in New York, when the event took place, and is now due in court this week. The two injured UFC fighters were both forced to withdraw from their scheduled events; Ray Borg suffered an eye injury from shattered glass, and Michael Chiesa had multiple cuts on his face from the glass. McGregor is known to be a big personality outside of the octagon, but this event goes beyond that. The fighter’s arrest-resulting antics may also do the UFC some long term brand damage, even though Saturday night’s UFC 223 drew a live gate of $3 million with a sellout crowd of 17,026, setting a record as the highest grossing sporting event ever at Barclays Center.”
4. As the NBA and NHL postseasons prepare to get underway, Anheuser Busch brings a “performance based model” to sports sponsorships. Anheuser Busch has introduced an incentive laden sponsorship model for both teams and leagues that rewards performance on and off the field (including playoff appearances, growing attendance, improving TV ratings, and increased social awareness). The template for A-B’s new deals, according to John Wall Street, include “base compensation and a series of metrics (team/league specific) that if met, would trigger a larger investment from the company.” A-B Vice President of Consumer Connections Joao Chueiri said, as a leader in the industry it was the company’s responsibility to revamp “legacy models that were created on consumer behavior that is no longer there.” It is believed that A-B is the first “major sponsor” within sports to implement a performance based model. A-B has league sponsorship deals in place with the NBA, NFL, and MLB, and maintains dozens of individual team partnerships; the Saints, Dodgers, Timberwolves, and NASCAR are the first four rights holders to work with A-B under the new performance-based model. The off-field portion of the deals could be problematic – just think of the consequences if Papa John’s had this type of clause in their NFL contract last season.
5. The Dallas Mavericks will not make the NBA Playoffs this year, but that isn’t stopping them from making a positive impact on their community. On March 23, the Seth Curry Foundation and 5Miles brought together students from KIPP Destiny Middle School, Young Women’s STEAM Academy, and Young Men’s Leadership Academy for a business pitch competition. Celebrity guest judges included Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. With the support of Seth Curry and 5Miles, Dallas-area students have accessed Venture, EVERFI’s entrepreneurship exploration course. EVERFI is the leading education technology company that provides scalable digital real world education for millions of students of all ages. In February, Curry underwent season-ending surgery for a stress fracture in his lower left leg and is expected to resume full activities within three months. For now, the Duke standout and five-year NBA veteran has a little more time during the regular season than he normally does to focus on his foundation while tending to his health.
6. The Golden State Warriors will be keeping their name despite moving from Oakland to San Francisco upon the completion of their new arena. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the “Golden State” will not be removed in favor of “San Francisco,” though the team did consider the change years ago. Back in 2012 when the Warriors announced their pending departure from the East Bay, the name change was a “hot-button issue.” Having played as the San Francisco Warriors from 1962-1971, many speculated that the change of location would present a perfect time to change the name. “Back then, if you’d gone to Beijing or Paris or Buenos Aires and asked people where ‘Golden State’ is, you would have gotten a quizzical look, like they had no idea or didn’t care,” said Warriors President and COO Rick Welts. Now, “Every fan in the world knows that name…So this is a real no-brainer for us,” he added. The team’s massive success on the court over the past few years – highlighted by two NBA championships and three trips to the Finals – has convinced the team to keep its branding the same.
7. More than a dozen states are considering legalizing sports betting ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court case on the matter. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota is just one of the states working behind-the-scenes to get a legal infrastructure for sporting betting set ahead of the Supreme Court decision, in case the federal ban is deemed unconstitutional. The legalization of gambling is essential for many states, as the revenue from such gaming is often one of the biggest revenue streams. As such is the case in Rhode Island, where Governor Gina Raimondo’s budget proposal for next year “includes $23.5 million in new state revenue from legalized sports gambling at Twin River’s casino in Lincoln and its planned casino in Tiverton.” Gaming revenue is Rhode Island’s third-biggest revenue source. In Illinois, multiple top professional sports officials have noted their openness to legalizing sports betting pending the federal government’s approval, but they also “want to ensure their leagues get a cut of the money needed to protect the ‘integrity of our competitions.’” Conversely, there are those who would argue that if pro sports leagues get a cut of the action they open themselves up further to possible charges of corruption.
8. The annual August Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway (MIS) has lost its title sponsor. According to MLive.com, Pure Michigan, the state’s tourism campaign, will no longer have its name linked with the race. Since 2011, Pure Michigan, a Travel Michigan campaign and arm of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, has paid the MIS over $4.3 million to sponsor the race. In each of the past seven years, the cost to remain the title sponsor has either increased or remained the same. The first year that Pure Michigan paid to have its name in front of the race, it cost the corporation $335,000 – last year that number was $700,000. MIS has not yet announced a replacement for the Cup Series race this coming August. Pure Michigan will keep a branding and marketing presence around the track on race day, promoting events such as the Faster Horses Festival. Pure Michigan “also paid for broadcast naming rights” in 2011 and 2012, which cost an additional $637,500 for the 2011 race.” Without a title sponsor, the Michigan event is opening itself up to join the recent crop of painfully awkward NASCAR race names like the American Ethanol E15 250 Presented by Enogen and the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line.
9. FIFA has warned Morocco that is does not want any “white elephant” stadiums built as part of the country’s bid for the 2026 World Cup. According to the AP, as part of Morocco’s hopeful bid, the North African nation would need to build or renovate all 14 of the necessary stadiums as well as up to 150 training grounds to accommodate the expanded field of 48 teams. The project in its entirety is expected to cost $15.8 billion, whereas the North American bid would only require about $30-40 million to install grass at stadiums, not to build any previously unplanned facilities. FIFA has revamped its World Cup selection process after years of bribery and scandal under former President Sepp Blatter. Morocco bid organizers have been very vocal about their dissatisfaction with the new process, “complaining that the governing body had imposed burdensome demands for technical criteria on which the bids will be scored.” A vote in June will decide the winner, and while FIFA is assumed to be less corrupt under its new leadership, there’s a strong possibility the bid will get political.
10. Domestic World Cup broadcaster FOX Sports has teamed up with genetic research firm 23andMe to help fans select a new soccer team to cheer for this summer with the U.S. being absent from the field. According to AdAge, with FOX worried that its broadcasting numbers will be down during this summer’s World Cup in Russia, the network launched a new campaign to ensure that people will tune in across the country. The first 30-second spot, called “Root for Your Roots,” is meant to target the millions of Americans who do not know where their family roots are. “You’re connected to the World Cup,” the spot’s narrator intones, as the montage of athletes and aficionados unspools. “You may not speak the language or have visited the country, you may not know their heroes, but we’re all connected to a World Cup nation through our DNA.” The campaign was originally designed last summer in case the U.S. failed to quality, so it is coming in handy now.