1. As college football kicks off in earnest this week, the sport is experiencing a dramatic rise in naming rights deals. The value of college football stadium naming rights deals has skyrocketed over the last three years, with the average annual fee now exceeding $1 million, according to JohnWallStreet. American Airlines started the trend in 2015, agreeing to a 10-year $41 million pact with the University of Washington (Husky Stadium). United Airlines followed, agreeing to a 16-year deal worth $69 million, to put its name on the USC Trojans’ L.A. Coliseum. And in May 2017, Kentucky became the first SEC school to add a naming rights sponsor on a football stadium, agreeing to a 12-year $22 million deal with Kroger. The shifting landscape has programs across the country considering adopting corporate names for their athletic buildings. University of Colorado Chief Revenue Officer Matt Biggers noted that his school had explored naming rights sponsorships in the past, but said for the first time there now seems a universal understanding (from administrators and alumni) “from a cost and revenue standpoint” that “we have to generate revenue to compete.” College football is in an arms race, and naming rights are just one revenue stream that allows athletic departments to stockpile ammunition.
2. The total tennis economy grew 1.1% in 2017 to $6.06 billion. The total value of the U.S. tennis economy grew by just over 1% last year, crossing the $6 billion threshold for the first time. The data is from the Tennis Industry Association’s annual “Economic Index,” created to evaluate the total worth of the U.S. tennis industry to the overall economy. The 2017 index value measured 110, the highest since the Tennis Economic Index value was first released in 2008. The $6.06 billion total value of the tennis economy is calculated by measuring various segments in tennis, including participation, facility revenue, program delivery and lesson/clinic revenue, equipment sales, media, and revenue from the professional tours. Despite decreases in recreational tennis participation and sales of tennis equipment to consumers, gains were realized in facility and lesson revenue, sponsorships, and ad revenue, which led to the overall 1.1% gain in the tennis economy. In fact, the total U.S. Tennis Economic Index has seen steady growth since 2008. While fewer people may be playing, more are watching – equally as important to the sport’s long term health.
3. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are set to battle head-to-head in Las Vegas like the heavyweights in the ring typically do. According to Variety, “The Match,” an 18-hole winner-take-all duel, is set to take place over Thanksgiving weekend in America’s gambling capital. With a pot of $9 million up for grabs, this is not the same payday that Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are used to walking away with from Vegas, though it is still a significant sum of money for a golf match. The format of the event will be traditional match play, though Mickelson confirmed that there will be ‘in-play’ competitions like closest to the pin or longest drive scattered throughout; both players and their caddies will also be wearing microphones. Tuner has secured control of the pay-per-view rights, though a specific PPV price has not yet been confirmed. In addition to Turner’s involvement, “The Match” will be streamed live on Bleacher Report’s OTT platform. True to form, the trash talk has already started on both sides, and both hard core and casual golf fans anxiously await PPV pricing and availability info.
4. President Donald Trump continues his direct involvement with the national anthem issue plaguing the NFL. According to The Hill, President Trump has now started a petition urging his followers “to denounce ESPN’s spineless move to continue not airing the national anthem before ‘MNF’ games this season.” An email from the Trump Make America Great Again Committee was sent out following ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro’s announcement that his network would continue its traditional of not airing the anthem. “We generally have not broadcasted the anthem and I don’t think that will change this year,” said Pitaro. Most networks have traditionally not shown the anthem in years past, even before last year’s protests and hotly-contested debate on the issue, often electing for commercial breaks instead. FOX Sports, which owns more NFL media rights that ESPN, has decided only to show the anthem “during what it considers to be special broadcasts – including on Veterans Day and Thanksgiving and during the playoffs.” As serious indictments continue to be handed out to members of Trump’s inner circle, perhaps the President will be forced to focus on more pressing issues than policies in an industry in which he has no stake.
5. Nashville continues to forge ahead with its plan to build a soccer-specific MLS stadium, though everything still remains in jeopardy with a final vote one month away. According to the Tennessean, the expansion team’s $275 million stadium proposal “took a step forward in the Metropolitan Council” when it voted 24-7 to advance an ordinance calling for demolishing existing buildings at the fairgrounds site to clear way for a 30,500-seat stadium. The council’s positive vote now sets up a third and final vote on this specific and a few other ordinances involving the team, stadium construction, and revenue plans. The September 4 vote “needs 27 votes in the 40 member council for final approval.” Since the ordinance advanced with only 24 affirmatives votes, Nashville MLS Owner John Ingram and Mayor David Briley’s administration now need to pick up three additional votes from council members. What once seemed as a surefire deal is far from it now; the abrupt resignation of former Mayor Megan Barry, who spearheaded the project, has since cast a looming cloud of uncertainty over the team’s stadium plans.
6. Merely a week after La Liga announced a new long-term plan to play regular season matches abroad in the U.S., players from Spanish clubs are considering protesting the move. According to Marca, Spanish Footballers’ Association President David Aganzo noted the outrage among the players for not being included in talks to strike such a deal. The captains from the league’s 20 clubs, including Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos, recently got together to discuss the recent development. “The players are outraged, very surprised and are all against it,” said Aganzo. “The players don’t want to play overseas. Things have to be done in a more coherent way and with common sense.” Aganzo went on to note that the players could go on strike if it comes to that. With so much initial excitement from fans across the United States, matters appear much more tense in Spain as players and clubs try to manage the actual logistics of making such matches work in their favor.
7. With the recent announcement of an official team name, Austin, Texas, appears likely to land an MLS team in the near future. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Austin FC could begin play as early as next spring should the Columbus Crew relocate south to Texas. The decision to go with a generic name “falls in line with the recent trend of MLS expansion clubs” like LAFC and Atlanta United. It also “pays tribute to the team being Austin’s first in a major professional sports league.” Not all of the team’s details have been worked out yet, specifically where the planned $200 million, soccer-specific stadium would be built, but the club’s colors have been confirmed as green, black, and white with the name “Austin” placed above a pair of intertwined live oaks on the jersey badge. The vibrant and booming city in Texas seems worthy of a professional sports team, and this is the city’s best bet in landing an MLS, MLB, or NBA team.
8. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling the other month, every few weeks or so another state across the country crosses the line to legalize sports betting – this time it is West Virginia’s turn. According to John WallStreet, West Virginia is poised to become the fifth state, following Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, and Mississippi, to legalize such activity when the sportsbook at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races opens on September 1. This appears to be the only casino that will have an open sportsbook in time for the upcoming college football season; “The Greenbrier, Mardi Gras Casino and Wheeling Island Casino have yet to announce when their sportsbooks will open.” A league integrity fee will be included for West Virginia sports gambling, as insisted by Governor Jim Justice. Despite his input, interestingly enough the law to legalize sports betting was actually passed without Justice’s signature – a clear indicator of the measure’s strong statewide support.
9. NBA 2K league adds four expansion teams for 2019. The NBA has announced that franchises owned by the Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks, and Minnesota Timberwolves will join its NBA 2K League esports competition in 2019. The four expansion teams will join an existing roster of 17 NBA teams that participated in this year’s inaugural 2k League season, which just concluded with its first ever finals event August 25. According to ESPN, the price of an expansion franchise for the second 2K League season is $750,000 for three years of participation, which represents no increase on the previous campaign. The Hawks, Nets, Lakers, and Timberwolves will create affiliate brands that will look similar to their basketball franchises. The 2K League will host its expansion draft on September 28. “Welcoming these four world-class organizations and their passionate fanbases to the NBA 2K League is an exciting moment not only for the league, but for the entire 2K community,” said NBA 2K League managing director Brendan Donohue.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars sign data-driven tech deal. Tech Mahindra, an Indian information technology and digital transformation company, has signed a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars to become the franchise’s technology, analytics, and digital strategy partner. As part of the agreement, the IT provider will offer innovative digital technology expertise, including artificial intelligence and special analytics in order to enhance fan experience and increase front office efficiency. Besides their work directly with the club, Tech Mahindra has committed to partnering with the Jaguars in community work designed to improve the technological awareness and education of northeast Florida residents. A contribution towards local schools will also be made by both the Jaguars and the tech firm. Said Jaguars President Mark Lamping, “The Jaguars’ organization is powered by innovation. This strategic partnership with Tech Mahindra will fuel that pursuit with a data-driven and technologically advanced approach to a variety of challenges that face a growing NFL franchise. We’re excited to welcome them to the Jaguars family and eager to get to work.”