1. With the 2018-2019 NFL season finally here, a few key questions are left to be answered this season. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the NFL has seen its TV viewership fall the past two seasons, leaving the league scrambling to buck that trend. Many in the industry noted that they expect declines for a third consecutive year, noting that it is uncertain “as to whether there is anything the league can do to fix the issue.” From a change in delivery, going from traditional broadcast to OTT and streaming services, to “increased competition for screen time,” some of the industry’s top executives are predicting a yearly decline in the “5-7%” range stemming from a multitude of factors, particularly those previously listed. Apart from TV ratings, the league is still dealing with problems related to head trauma and player safety, while also trying to combat the decline in youth participation. Unrest at the top of its broadcast partner companies likely doesn’t help NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell slumber either – most recently the ouster of CBS Chairman Les Moonves on Sunday.
2. The meaty main course of college football’s opening week has come and gone and now it’s time for dessert – across the U.S., top teams are being treated to pricey cupcakes. According to USA Today, roughly $175 million will exchange hands between college football’s haves and have nots to fill out nonconference menus in 2018, mostly during the first few weeks of September. In Week 2 alone, Arkansas State collected $1.7 million to travel to Tuscaloosa for a beat down by Alabama, and Western Michigan pocketed $1.2 million from No. 21 Michigan (out of a total $4.6 million the Wolverines will give away during their nonconference schedule). But the cupcake revenue wars may well be won by Kent State, which will pocket $3.65 million in appearance fees via treks to Illinois, Penn State, and Ole Miss. In the words of Jackie Gleason, how sweet is.
3. Group1001 and IndyCar rookie driver Zach Veach have announced a partnership with leading education technology company EVERFI, Inc that will bring hands-on STEM teaching to classrooms nationwide and inspire the next generation of engineers. The interactive STEM program, called Endeavor, introduces middle and high school students to exciting careers in technical fields and uses gamified lessons to encourage and prepare students for a career in STEM. As part of the course experience, students will virtually hear Veach talk about his passion for STEM education, the incredible amount of technology that he leverages while piloting his race car, and the critical role his engineering and pit crew teams play in powering his performance. Said Dan Towriss, CEO of Group1001, “We know that initiatives at the intersection of sports and education bring positive social change and can help the next generations of learners prepare to solve the challenges of tomorrow through STEM. As the first auto sports driver to join EVERFI’s impressive roster of athlete ambassadors, Zach is the perfect role model for kids. He has an unmatched passion and dedication to what he does and is now using his understanding of math and engineering to begin achieving his dreams as an Indy driver.” Interesting to note that 80% of the nation’s fastest-growing careers require skills from one or more STEM fields – both outside and inside of sports.
4. The Oakland Raiders could be leaving the Bay Area sooner than expected. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland City Council has “authorized a multimillion-dollar antitrust lawsuit against the NFL and the Raiders over the team’s impending move to Las Vegas.” Team executives have already stated that they will not sign any future lease agreement at the aging Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum should the lawsuit be filed. The lawsuit “will likely seek millions of dollars in damages for the team’s exit” to Las Vegas; Oakland Councilman Noel Gallo noted that the lawsuit could result in up to $500 million in damages being paid out by the NFL and the Raiders. The franchise is currently under a year-to-year lease with the Coliseum Authority, but is in a temporary bind pending the construction of its new stadium in Nevada. One possible alternative to staying in Oakland any longer could be playing home games at the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium, though Owner Mark Davis “can’t stand Levi’s Stadium.” Regardless of where the Raiders play next year, Oakland fans no doubt wish one Raiders fixture still called the Bay Area home: star pass rusher Khalil Mack, just dealt to the Chicago Bears for $141 million.
5. Despite failing to break back into the NFL, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is the new face of Nike’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign. According to the New York Times, Kaepernick recently signed a new, multiyear deal with Nike as his previous one, signed back in 2011, was about to expire. Instead of dropping him from the company payroll, Nike re-signed the former NFLer, made him the star of the new campaign, and donated money to his “Know Your Rights” campaign. Nike elected to do so as a way to give the politically-outspoken icon a “larger platform”; his message of standing up for what he believes in still resonates with athletes and fans all around the country. The first ad shows a close-up black and white photo of his face and reads: “Believes in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Since tweeting the photo on his account, the campaign has generated at least $43 million in free advertising for Nike. Research conducted by Edison Trends has also revealed that Nike’s online sales surged 31% Sunday-Tuesday – a noteworthy measure for any campaign.
6. A recent report from Nielsen boldly states that a fully mature U.S. sports gambling market could be worth as much as $2.3 billion to the NFL. According to ESPN.com, the report, commissioned by the American Gaming Association, assumes that following the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize sports betting in all 50 states, media rights fees, sponsorships by betting operators of teams, ancillary advertising, and the purchasing of official league data are all set to increase going forward. The report does not factor in “integrity fees,” where the league would receive a fixed percentage of the total amount bet on NFL games. The report projects that the annual purchasing of league data alone would contribute $30 million per year to the NFL’s top line. The AGA is not opposed to “the idea of betting operators purchasing the official league data,” but is opposed to the idea of operators being forced to do so. The sports gambling market is still in a state of infancy, with years to go until it fully matures, though the outlook is positive for the NFL here.
7. The Arizona Cardinals have a new naming rights sponsor: State Farm. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the Cardinals have signed State Farm to an 18-year deal, replacing the University of Phoenix as the stadium’s title sponsor. The value of State Farm’s new deal has not yet been disclosed, though the University of Phoenix was paying between $8-9 million per year since signing on in 2006. News of this deal comes less than a week after the Atlanta Hawks announced State Farm as their new naming rights partner, changing from Philips Arena to State Farm Arena for this coming season. The 20-year deal is reportedly worth $175 million over its lifetime, making it the fifth-largest naming rights deal in the NBA currently. “We think these give a far broader audience than we’ve ever had,” commented State Farm Exec Vice President and Chief Agency Sales & Marketing Officer Rand Harbert on the two deals. “In both cities, these will help us to connect, and not only fly the brand flag, but to do good.” Now, the 0-1 Cardinals need to win a few games before State Farm changes its mind.
8. A group from Seattle is set to present to the NFL’s executive committee next month regarding a potential expansion franchise. According to the Seattle Times, the meeting with take place on October 2, “and if the presentation meets approval, the full NHL BOG would vote in December in Florida on whether to award the city an expansion franchise.” If given a team, the ownership group would have to pay an expansion fee of $650 million before starting play. The ownership group, commonly known as NHL Seattle, comprises some of the area’s most successful businessmen, including MLS Sounders Owner Adrian Hanauer, Chris and Ted Ackerley — whose father was a longtime Sonics owner — Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy, and BDA CEO Jay Deutsch. Boston Celtics minority Owner David Bonderman gives the potential franchise another touchpoint in professional sports, lending additional credibility to the group with the hope of impressing the executive committee next month.
9. Nashville’s MLS expansion team finally has concrete and approved plans to build a soccer-specific stadium. According to the Nashville Tennessean, it has been months in the making, but the city’s Metro Council gave “final approval to three ordinances and a resolution for a much-debated $275 million” stadium at the Fairgrounds Nashville, just south of downtown. The team’s MLS debut is set for 2020, with the stadium expected to be open by February 2021. The approval from the council now means that it can issue $225 million in “revenue improvement bonds for the stadium” — the ownership group, led by publishing magnate John Ingram, will pay $9 million per year over a 30-year period to repay the bonds. In addition to building the 27,500-seat stadium, construction plans call for a 10-acre mixed-use development with housing, retail, and a hotel built on the Fairgrounds site. Nashville over the last decade has developed quite the hipster reputation – an MLS franchise will only boost its appeal with millennials and their soccer-happy younger siblings.
10. David Beckham is one step closer to finally having his long-awaited MLS franchise in Miami after revealing the team’s name, colors, and crest. According to the Miami Herald, Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami is the official name of the expansion franchise, which still lacks a finalized stadium site to build on. The front and back pages of the Miami Herald were printed pink with the club’s logo in the center of the page, boldly announcing the team’s arrival. “This is such a proud day for myself and for the entire team,” team owner and president of operations David Beckham said. “It’s an honor to announce the new name and crest to our fans — we are taking another important step in establishing our Club and today marks an important moment in the history of Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami.” The team’s name is meant to pay homage to the diverse population that constitutes Miami and Southern Florida as a whole. Inter Miami CF, the club’s shortened name, is set to begin play in 2020. No doubt, the club will add to Miami’s long and colorful sports legacy, of which I have been proud to have played a part.