1. Tiger Woods wins his first PGA Tour event in five years, and with the victory will not only be the main storyline at this week’s Ryder Cup, but the focus of the 2019 golf season to come. More immediately, the Ryder Cup is becoming “the biggest one-off weekend in sport,” as rivals U.S. and Europe “join forces to offer new global commercial deals” worth in excess of $261.5 million, according to the London Telegraph. Ryder Cup Europe and the PGA “are breaking with tradition by combining efforts to lure new worldwide sponsors, a move which industry experts predict” will send profits surging. Partially thanks to Woods’ resurgence, record numbers “are due to follow the action” at Le Golf National, near Paris, starting Friday. In previous years, “sponsors have been put off big-money global deals because they have been forced to negotiate” with marketing execs on both sides of the Atlantic. However, this year UPS was named the tournament’s second “global partner” in its history. There are currently 34 Ryder Cup partners, suppliers, and licensees. The average price per sponsor for the event in Europe is around $2.6 million, while in the U.S. it is closer to $5.2 million – largely because of the big money deals top PGA Tour pros, including Woods, command.
2. The City of Pittsburgh, the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation and Dan Towriss, CEO of Group1001, have announced plans to design and construct a new youth athletic field in honor of Pro Football Hall of Famer Curtis Martin. Located near the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh where Martin grew up, the new multi-sport synthetic turf field will be used for football, soccer, and baseball/softball and provide local youth with a safe place to play. The new field will be made possible thanks in part to a generous $5 million donation to the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation from Towriss and Group1001, used to build a total of ten Youth Development Parks over five years in 10 cities across the country. Each field will receive up to $500,000 in funding from Group1001 and will support the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation’s MLB RBI (Reviving Baseball in the Inner City) partnership, designed to provide baseball and softball league-play for underserved youth, as well as other youth-serving organizations. The Stargell Field revitalization project comes after three years of planning by grassroots organization Homewood Community Sports (HCS), which has been in existence since the 1960s. As the NFL regular season settles in and baseball heads to the playoffs, the timing of this game-changing announcement couldn’t be more appropriate.
3. Fort Lauderdale will be the first stop on the FIVB Beach Major Series tour for the second straight year. The fifth edition of the Major Series kicks of February 5-10 and continues throughout the summer. In 2018, Fort Lauderdale watched as hometown stars Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena topped the podium alongside Brazil’s Barbara Seixas de Freitasand Fernanda Alves. “Fort Lauderdale is probably currently the best spot in the Beach Major Series,” Hannes Jagerhofer, CEO of the Beach Major Series said ahead of the 2018 event. “We can find here everything for a recipe for success.” Next up on the slate is the World Championships June 28-July 7 at Rothenbaum Stadium in Hamburg, Germany, the site of the last two World Tour Finals. The 48-team event will bring the elite of the world to the tournament, where an automatic berth to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is on the line. The final stop of 2019 is Danube Island in Vienna, home of the 2017 World Championships. Beginning with Fort Lauderdale, the FIVB series joins the pantheon of eagerly-awaited mega events in South Florida and beyond.
4. Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets are stepping up to help the community following Hurricane Florence’s devastation of North and South Carolina. According to the Charlotte Observer, Jordan is donating $1 million to the Red Cross and another $1 million to the Foundation for the Carolinas Florence Response Fund. The Red Cross is “providing food and shelter to those displaced by the storm,” while the FCFRF “directs funds to non-profits in North and South Carolina.” Jordan hopes that his money will not only help with immediate relief, but will go toward addressing the “long-term effects on people all over the Carolinas whose lives have been changed for the worse.” “People need to understand this will not be a week-long process,” said Jordan. “This is going to have a huge disruption on people’s lives — not for 10 days, but for years.” In addition to pledging money, more than 100 members of the Hornets organization will help package disaster food boxes for those in need around the region. Hands-on response has also been pledged by the Carolina Panthers, the NFL, and multiple college programs in the region.
5. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has agreed to contribute $10 million toward women’s organizations in the wake of an investigation into the team’s workplace. According to ESPN.com, the NBA launched the investigation just over half a year ago after allegations of harassment and violence toward female employees came forward. A report in Sports Illustrated described “a corporate culture rife with misogyny and predatory sexual behavior that spanned decades in the Mavericks’ organization, including numerous allegations against former CEO and President Terdema Ussery, who left the Mavericks in 2015.” The investigation saw an outside law firm speak to 215 current and former Mavericks employees and concluded that the team’s management “was ineffective, including a lack of compliance and internal controls.” Cuban spoke emotionally in an interview, saying, “It just never in my wildest dreams that I think that this was happening right underneath me. And I never — the pain that people went through, the pain that people shared with me as this happened, the tears that I saw…It just — it hurt.” There is no place for harassment in any industry – including the male-dominated sports world – and it’s gratifying to see the long-progressive NBA take an unsparing leadership role as more #MeToo investigations come to light.
6. The Las Vegas Golden Knights have signed the first team sponsorship deal with a bookmaking company. According to SportsBusiness Journal, Las Vegas-based William Hill U.S. is teaming up with the NHL’s newest and hottest team — a “historic, and fitting, marriage between the first global sportsbook to enter the U.S. market and the first major sports franchise to make the world’s gaming capital its home.” Neither side would confirm the financial value of the partnership, though it is a multiyear and non-exclusive contract. The Golden Knights have made a conscious effort to keep a diverse sponsorship portfolio, going beyond the assumed ties they would have with Las Vegas bookmakers and gambling entities. “We hope people will be sitting at T-Mobile and betting between periods,” said William Hill U.S. CEO Joe Asher. “Frankly, we know they do that already. We’re hoping to be able to get more people to our site because the brand will be right there in front of them.” How far we’ve come – it was only a few short years ago that people swore Vegas would never have a pro sports team due to the gambling stigma.
7. The Cleveland Cavaliers are preparing to unveil a newly-renovated Quicken Loans Arena. According to Crain’s Cleveland Business, the Cavs have followed a league-wide trend by reducing their capacity to “the mid-19,000 range,” down from a previous 20,562. Only five NBA arenas can hold more than 20,000 these days — The United Center in Chicago (20,917), Little Caesars Arena in Detroit (20,491), Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. (20,356), the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia (20,328), and Quicken Loans Arena. The renovations are expected to cost $185 million in total after the team committed another $45 million toward upgrades — $115 million of which will be covered by the Cavs. The additional $45 million boost will go directly toward a “total overhaul” of the team’s locker room, which will be ready before the start of the new season. Cavs Executive VP of Communications Tad Carper said that the project “did not generate” $45 million in cost overruns, but rather that the team “opted to invest the extra money to improve upon the already-planned upgrades. From cutting edge uniforms to first class locker rooms, amenities matter to players and prospects, and the Cavs have clearly paid attention.
8. The Portland Trail Blazers are now the 24th team in the NBA to sign a jersey patch sponsor, reaching a multiyear agreement with Illinois-based Performance Health. According to the Oregonian, Performance Health’s pain relief product Biofreeze will be featured on the breast of Blazer jerseys this year, while also appearing on practice jerseys and on the team’s Summer League uniforms. Despite “flirting with multiple partners” last year, the Blazers decided to wait to find the right fit for their first jersey patch sponsor. Performance Health currently holds sponsorship deals “with tennis player Sloane Stephens; Gold Medal-winning U.S. snowboarder Shaun White; multiple MLB teams including the Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and Yankees; and marquee marathons in San Francisco, New York, and Chicago.” Financials around the deal have not yet been released, but such deals have proven to be lucrative for teams, the NBA and sponsors alike; during last year’s pilot program, the NBA generated around $137 million while sponsors “have earned nearly three times that on social media alone.” As NBA teams report to camp on Tuesday, look for all 30 NBA squads to have jersey patch deals by the 2019-2020 season a year from now.
9. The inaugural Racquet & Paddle Sports Conference will be held January 23-25 and co-located with the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. The multi-faceted tennis, racquet, and paddle sports event will feature a hands-on product demo experience and opening welcome party at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona; and a curated ONE2ONE buying summit, Tennis Owners & Managers (TOM) Conference, and an exhibit pavilion of racquet, paddle and tennis vendors and organizations at the Orange County Convention Center. The Racquet & Paddle Sports Conference, while co-located with the PGA Merchandise Show at the OCCC, will be a stand-alone event. A significant number of PGA Merchandise Show attendees representing golf and resort properties also have an interest in racquet sports offerings. The PGA Merchandise Show, called the “Major” of Golf Business, draws more than 40,000 influential PGA Professionals, manufacturing executives, VIP retailers, international industry leaders, and top-decision makers. Look for tennis and other racquet sports to benefit.