Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #19

As 2014 winds down, here are six memories to take away from the past year in sports marketing.

1. It's the Experience, Stupid

In a play on the famous "it's the economy, stupid" crafted by Bill Clinton's presidential campaign team in 1992, today's sports fan expects a technology enhanced experience when attending live events. Venues are playing catch up to have the needed infrastructure to empower fans to use their mobile devices. We are connected anywhere, anytime, and fans will not accept mediocre technology access. Simply being at a sporting event is no longer enough to create memorable customer experiences.

2. Social Sports

Speaking of technology and mobile devices, 2014 marked another year in which social media became more prominent in sports consumption. This trend was especially evident during the FIFA World Cup tournament. Sporting events represent the ultimate in live programming, and social networks like Twitter are ideal channels for letting fans gloat, complain, taunt, and talk in real time about the sports, teams, and athletes that are intertwined with their self-identity.

3. Gentrification of College Football

The long anticipated playoff system in college football has been implemented with a four-team College Football Playoff. Its first year has met all expectations so far in terms of stimulating and maintaining fan interest. The CFP may be having another effect- widening the divide between the haves (Big 5 conferences) and have nots (all other BCS conferences). The recent decision by the University of Alabama at Birmingham to drop football could be an isolated occurrence affected by many variables. Or, is it possible that other institutions that spend heavily on football with little demonstrable return might question their participation in a system that is stacked against them?

4. The Activist Athlete

In late 2014, high profile cases involving police and African-Americans in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City fueled conversations about race and equal treatment of all citizens by police. Athletes joined the discourse in a very public way, marking a departure from the practice of steering clear of political and social issues that could negatively impact an athlete's standing with sponsors or fans. Athletes have a platform from which to exert influence- will more of them decide to make their voices heard on social issues of the day?

5. Non-Competitive Olympics

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi delivered its share of memorable moments in competition, but there is an area in which the Olympic movement is seeing competition whither: Cities battling for the right to host Olympic Games. Soaring costs and tremendous demands on infrastructure have made hosting an Olympics less appealing. The IOC must make hosting a more appealing proposition for cities around the globe that have become reluctant to submit bids.

6. The Reality of Fantasy

The fantasy sports industry experienced transformation in 2014 as daily games from providers like DraftKings and FanDuel sparked new interest and participation. Innovation is a driver of growth, and the popularity of daily games should serve as a call for pro sports leagues to figure out how to build interest in their brands through daily game fantasy products.

Thank You

Your willingness to take a few moments to read our take on sports business is very much appreciated. You probably read for the same reason we write- love of sports. It is a privilege to be able to share with you. Happy Holidays to you and yours, and may 2015 by your best year yet!

- Don Roy

Monday, December 1, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #18

It's after Thanksgiving, and these six turkeys are still around to read about what is going on in sports business. So, what's been happening?

1. New Commissioners, New Marketing Directions for NBA and MLB?

The National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball have new commissioners, Adam Silver and Rob Manfred, respectively. It just so happens that both brands are also in play for marketing agencies to court. What should be the marketing priorities for the NBA and MLB as they begin new eras under the leadership of Silver and Manfred? How will selection of agency partners play a role in shaping the future of these brands?

2. Parking is a Bear of a Problem, but App Solves Problem

The live sporting event has become vulnerable as rising costs and time investment lead many fans to question the value of attending in person versus consuming indirectly on TV or online. Another sore spot is parking- the cost to park a vehicle and convenience (or lack thereof) of finding parking reasonably close to the venue dissuade many would be attendees. One way to overcome the parking challenge is to enlist technology. The Minnesota Wild have done just that, partnering with Parking Panda to enable fans to use an app to search for parking options and even reserve a space. If Parking Panda or other similar services spread nationally, it makes one wonder what are other ways in which technology can remove impediments to direct sports consumption.

Minnesota Wild, Parking Panda to Let Game-Goers Reserve Parking Spots, Katharine Grayson, Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal

3. Is the NHL Interested in Developing a $100M Product?

A projection that a new product could generate $100 million in revenue is an attention getter, to say the least. That is the estimate that a World Cup-style hockey tournament could generate for the National Hockey League and its players. The projection is all the more interesting as the NHL weighs the benefits of allowing its players to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. The feeling is the NHL is not so interested in having its season disrupted by a tournament that it does not control in a country that is not important to the league in terms of building a fan base. Should an NHL-operated World Cup become the premier global tournament for ice hockey, just as FIFA World Cup is for soccer?

4. Big Five or Bust? Are Mid-Major Football Programs in Jeopardy?

Creation of the College Football Playoff and expansion/realignment among the big five conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC) may be widening a divide between the Big Five and the "Little Five" conferences (American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, and Sun Belt). Will some institutions in the little five group decide that dollars spent on football could be better utilized elsewhere? One institution, C-USA member University of Alabama at Birmingham, has apparently come to such a conclusion. Disbanding the football program appears imminent. Will other institutions evaluate their financial commitment to big-time football now that the Big Five conferences have in effect broken away from the rest of the NCAA's Football Championship Series (FCS) schools?

5. Is the NFL Television Product Too Good?

Good TV programming attracts viewers. In turn, larger audiences attract advertisers and drives up bidding for broadcast rights. The NFL has mastered this formula; some observers believe it has done so too well. The financial requirements of attending an NFL game, coupled with safety and convenience woes being cited more often as negatives to attending games, could have the unintended effect of the NFL become a made-for-TV product. Is the popularity of the NFL so great that it can weather dissatisfaction with attending games, or are changes needed to make in-person attendance more compelling than watching from one's sofa?

6. Real Madrid Tweaks Badge with New Sponsorship Deal

Signing a new corporate partner often garners more than mentioning snippets from a press release, but a change to the badge of Real Madrid was driven largely by its association with a new partner. The club announced a partnership with the National Bank of Abu Dabhi, then adapted its badge to remove the cross at the top (see before/after picture below). The change was thought to be an attempt by Real Madrid to not offend Muslims, an audience likely to be attracted through the new partnership. This case makes for interesting discussion- to what lengths should a sports property modify its brand identity or other marketing assets to win favor with a sponsor?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #17

Somehow, fall  has ended about five weeks early and winter weather has been ushered in to many parts of the US this week. Here are six stories about what is going on in sports business to get your mind off the cold temperatures.

1. University of Tennessee Rebrands Women's All Athletics Teams... Well, Almost All

A branding decision rather unique to college athletics is whether to differentiate the women's athletic teams from their male counterparts by incorporating gender reference (e.g., the Middle Tennessee Lady Raiders basketball team). Some people object to this tactic on equality grounds- why call the women's team "lady" when a similar gender reference is not included in branding men's teams. The University of Tennessee revisited this issue last week when it announced a rebranding of its women's Lady Vols teams by dropping the term "Lady" from all sports with one exception: Women's basketball. The Lady Vols brand name is synonymous with success and national championships in the Pat Summitt era. The argument for rebranding the other teams was to project a consistent identity for all UT athletic teams. Was the decision to make women's basketball an exception the right call?

2. Short-Term Fantasy Games- Who Wins?

A shift in the fantasy sports industry is occurring as daily and other short-term games are complementing traditional season-long games in the offerings of fantasy games. Fans do not have to make a significant time commitment to play these games, and sites like DraftKings and FanDuel entice players with chances to win prizes or cash. The growth of short-term games is not lost on leagues. The NBA has partnered with FanDuel to promote daily games as a means of attracting and engaging fans. Is this partnership a sign of things to come? Have shortened attention spans and the desire for immediate gratification set the stage for sustained growth in short-term games? If yes, who is poised to take advantage- leagues, fantasy game providers, or will there be some other disruption to the fantasy category?

3. Adam Silver's Bet

Gambling has been taboo in American team sports. History tells us that corruption occurring inside the sport industry, whether it is the Black Sox scandal in MLB or college athletes engaged in point shaving, suggests that the integrity of athletic competition can be compromised by participants with financial incentives to misbehave. This long held notion about the impropriety of gambling on sports makes NBA Adam Silver's op-ed piece in The New York Times all the more surprising. Is Silver right when he says the time has come to legalize and regulate betting on sports in the United States? His counterparts do not seem to share his views. Is legalized gambling on sports an inevitable development, or is this little more than an industry leader floating a trial balloon?

Legalize and Regulate Sports Betting, Adam Silver, The New York Times

4. Serving Up a Vision for the Future of ATP

Professional tennis seeks vision for the future, and to that end the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) is forming two advisory boards to mold strategic direction. One group will be a Business Advisory Board made up of experts from the branding and media worlds. The second group will be a Legends Advisory Board that includes Boris Becker and John McEnroe. I don't know about you, but I feel there is one other group that should have a seat at the table, say fans? Surely, the input of fans will occur somewhere along the way as the ATP sets a 10-year plan.

5. Dre Beats Bose in NFL

It is clear that Beats by Dre is the headphone product of choice for NFL players. Unfortunately, it is a competitor of an official NFL partner, Bose. In an effort to protect the value of Bose's sponsorship, the NFL told players do not be seen wearing Beats on camera or face fines. Players have been fined, but that is not stopping them from using their preferred brand. Beats by Dre has gotten significantly more mileage from being associated with the NFL than Bose even though it has not paid the league a penny for sponsorship. The heavy-handed tactic of the NFL fining players has not worked. How could Bose make its brand more relevant to players?

6. IOC Changes too Little, too Late for Host Cities and Fans?

The exorbitant cost of hosting Olympic Games has reached a tipping point. Four out of six cities that had planned to bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics have backed out, citing the high cost to host. This development is a threat to the Olympic movement. If countries lose interest in hosting games, the International Olympic Committee will be challenged to sustain sponsor and public interest in the Olympics. The pushback on Olympic costs is not limited to host cities; attendees and sponsors are also questioning the rising costs to partake of the Olympic experience. The IOC is considering lessening the financial burden host cities must incur, and it is looking to shorten the length of time required to approve new events be added. Are these changes enough to rekindle interest in the Olympics?

IOC Will Unveil Major Olympic Changes Next Week, Karlos Ghohmann, Universal Sports

Video of the Week

The Bakersfield Condors of the East Coast Hockey League had a Seinfeld -themed promotion last Saturday when they played the Idaho Steelheads. Players wore jerseys with the Seinfeld logo and graphics that gave the jerseys the look of a "puffy shirt." Players had Seinfeld character names in place of their own last names including The Wiz, Keith Hernandez, and Kramer. The jerseys were auctioned off following the game, with money raised going to charity... hopefully not The Human Fund.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #16

What's new in sports business, you ask? Here are six stories we ran across in the past week:

1. Innovation is not just for Growth but for Survival, Too

Sports is no different than any other industry in that it must be innovative to keep products relevant and interesting to customers. Spectator sports in particular must consider how innovation could be applied to speed up the pace of play. Games can stretch out to 3 1/2 to 4 hours depending on the sport. Fans connected to screens or with other interests may be reluctant to invest that much time to attend in person or watch at home. The issue raised in the article could make for lively discussion on how to strike a balance between maintaining traditions and improving the consumption experience through innovations that either speed up games or pack greater entertainment value into an event.

Adapt or Die, John Rowady, MediaPost Marketing: Sports

2. Elevating Formula 1 in the US Sports Landscape

Formula 1 recently held its third U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. Despite the popularity of this event, Formula 1 has a long road ahead if it wants to reach top tier status in American sports. Access to drivers is cited as a key success factor, whether at the track or on social media. How can Formula 1 strengthen its brand in America given that it competes in this market just one weekend a year?

3. Can Issacson Call Audible on NFL's Image?

The NFL's response to domestic assault incidents involving some of its players has been puzzling, to say the least. However, one response that has gained attention is naming a Vice President to take the lead on domestic violence policy. That task falls on the shoulders of Anna Isaacson. Although skeptics view her role as little more than a PR ploy, Isaacson is being counted on to play a pivotal role in restoring the NFL's image. The question remaining to be answered is how that task will be accomplished.

Can Issacson Save the NFL? Wayne Drehs,

4. App-urtunity? Fans Spending More Time on Sports Apps

Sports fans are increasingly fulfilling their appetite to consume sports news, scores, and highlights through mobile apps. In the period August 2013 to August 2014, time spent on sports apps rose 210% compared to a 65% rise in overall app usage. These stats leave little doubt that sports fans crave mobile experiences. Given the consumption rates for sports apps, a question begging to be answered is what opportunities exist for sports properties and app developers to turn this trend into a revenue stream.

5. Emirates Drops FIFA Sponsorship: Who's Next?

FIFA has been mired in dealing with allegations of corruption surrounding the decision to award the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar. The negative baggage associated with the scandal is one reason why Emirates Airlines has decided not renew its partnership with FIFA. No other corporate partners have bailed. In fact, most sponsors have had little to say about the corruption scandal. Will Emirates Airlines be an outlier, or will its decision trigger other sponsors to reconsider their continued association with FIFA?

Emirates Drops FIFA Sponsorship over Corruption Allegations, Tariq Panja and Dannielle Rossingh, National Post

6. Taco Bell's Recipe for College Football Playoff Sponsorship Success

The initial College Football Playoff is whipping fans into a frenzy as teams jockey for position to be among the four teams playing for the national championship. On the corporate sponsor side, one brand has reserved its seats already- literally. Taco Bell will have the Live Mas student section at all three playoff games, reserving 500 tickets per school. The activation is aimed squarely at the young male audience that is key to its business. The sponsorship has a social media component, too, that will surely add to the buzz around Taco Bell's association with the CFP.

Taco Bell Brands Student Section for First College Football Playoff, Maureen Morrison, Ad Age

Video of the Week

We are often exhorted to go the extra mile to gain a competitive edge. Well, before you go the extra mile, make sure you go the required distance. Utah wide receiver Kaelin Clay fell one yard short in going the required distance, casually dropping the ball just before crossing the goal line. The result was a touchdown... for Oregon.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #15

It's Election Day in the U.S. Here are six votes for interesting happenings in sports business:

1. How MLB Should Innovate through Digital

Baseball is known as America's pastime, which for some people has connotations of "old." When it comes to currency in digital marketing, MLB may appear old or lagging compared to other pro sports leagues. Marketing expert Bill Kanarick identifies four areas in which MLB needs to step up its digital game: 1) the in-game experience at stadiums, 2) the second-screen experience, 3) social media engagement and storytelling, and 4) content aimed at the always-on fan.

2. Sponsorship: From Signage to Social

Remember when the plum asset of sponsorship was venue signage? Sponsors beamed when they saw their name and logo plastered on signage... along with all the other sponsors, of course. As the sponsorship landscape has become more crowded, signage no longer has the allure that it once had. Exposure must be complemented with activation, and increasingly sponsors are seeking social media integration in their sponsorship strategy. The shift toward more digital activation falls in line with marketing dollars being shifted from traditional mediums to digital channels. Properties must be thinking in terms of how they can collaborate with sponsors to create engaging social media activation programs to add value beyond traditional assets like signage.

3. Under Armour Experiments with Store Design

Everything a brand does communicates, both spoken words and unspoken actions. The latter category includes visual presentation of its products. Under Armour is addressing this characteristic of branding by creating a laboratory environment to test store design elements. Whether it is a small space within a larger store or a dedicated Under Armour "brand house," the company is using its lab to ensure that brand presentation is consistent regardless of store type or location. I guess you could say it is another way Under Armour lives its slogan "protect this house."

Under Armour is Building a Lab to Test Store Designs, Sarah Meehan, Baltimore Business Journal

4. Is Rugby an Up and Coming Sport in the U.S.?

Rugby possesses similarities to soccer as viewed through an American lens- wide popularity globally and an emerging interest in the U.S. Although rugby lacks a pro league like soccer's MLS, that is not stopping sponsors from taking an interest in associating their brands with rugby. What are the long-term prospects for rugby becoming a growth sport in the U.S.? Can it build a grassroots movement like soccer has done over the past three decades?

Is Rugby the New Soccer for U.S. Fans, Marketers? Barry Janoff, Media Post Marketing: Sports

5. RFID: Has the Future Finally Arrived?

Radio frequency identification (RFID) has been a technology that seemed just a bit ahead of its time. Now, its time may have come, and sports properties are figuring out how to take advantage of effortless data collection that can occur from RFID chips embedded in wearables (e.g., a wristband). The benefits of RFID are not one-sided; event attendees stand to have a more seamless experience from entering a venue to buying concessions. Will RFID spur innovation that makes for a better fan experience, one that is compelling enough to get fans off the couch and into the arena?

RFID Can Change the Fan Experience for the Better, Preston McClellan,

6. The Case for Selling a $25 Hot Dog

Would you buy a $25 hot dog? If you are the marketer, you are asking the wrong person. You may have no interest in handing over $25 for any food item at a ballpark, but what about your customers? The Arizona Diamondbacks were reminded of this fundamental marketing concept when it introduced its D-Back dog. It is an 18-inch stuffed corn dog served on a bed of french fries. The $25 price tag and the don't ask, don't tell calorie count this creation must have was a combination that tempered sales expectations. But, a sales forecast of 500 units was exceeded by 9,000 units. This outcome makes one wonder what other revenue opportunities might be going unrealized, not just for the Arizona Diamondbacks but all MLB clubs.

D-Backs Sell Nearly 10K D-Back Dogs, Darren Rovell, 

Picture of the Week

A tragic side story that occurred during the World Series was the death of Oscar Taveras, a promising 22-year-old outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals honored Taveras last Tuesday, the day of his funeral in the Dominican Republic, by shining lights in right field at Busch Stadium. The image is a silent, but powerful tribute to Taveras.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #14

Here is your reserved space for six links to interesting happenings in sports business.

1. Right Guard Sponsorship Activation Takes a Zamboni Ride

Activation is the "fuel" that brings a sponsorship to life, capturing the attention of an audience in ways that signage alone cannot. The Toronto Maple Leafs teamed with Gillette's Right Guard brand to incorporate a replica Right Guard package on the back of a Zamboni. The NHL initially rejected the planned activation but later relented. Creativity is one of the few limitations of activation, and Right Guard's Zamboni "attachment" is further proof of that notion. 

2. Can Wearable Technology Use Sponsorship to Speed Adoption?

Wearable technology is predicted to take off... the question is when will consumers embrace wearables on a large scale. In the market for fitness-related wearables, one strategy for speeding adoption is to associate wearable technology products with athletes via sponsorship. Wearable technology brands including Fitbit and Jawbone are sponsoring sports and music properties to show how their products are used by athletes and musicians to maintain peak physical performance. Is this approach more effective than traditional brand messaging that focuses on features/benefits and persuasive selling?

3. PGA President Ousted for "Lil Girl" Remark

The latest case of foot-in-mouth disease (of  foot-on-keyboard) to hit sports cost PGA of America president Ted Bishop his job. Bishop decided to take to social media to criticize golfer Ian Poulter, referring to him as a "lil girl." Reaction by the PGA of America board was swift, removing Bishop from his position one month before his term was set to expire. From a public relations standpoint, did the PGA have no choice but to dismiss Bishop? Or, were the other ways Bishop's social media missteps could have been dealt with to protect the PGA brand?

4. AutoNation Cure Bowl: New Twist in Saturated Market

Your initial reaction to the news that a new college football bowl game will debut in 2015 may be "just what we need, another bowl game... NOT." But, this new bowl comes with a unique value proposition. The AutoNation Cure Bowl, pitting teams from the American Athletic Conference and Sun Belt Conference, will be held in Orlando. As the bowl name suggests, the game will raise funds for a cause, specifically the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Projected fundraising from the bowl is expected to hit $1 million over a three-year period. The AutoNation Cure Bowl is not the only college football bowl game that supports causes or charities, but it potentially stands out as existing in order to do so. Would a cause or philanthropic positioning enhance the relevance of other bowl games that are mired in also-ran status?

5. Under Armour Looming as a Threat to Nike?

At first glance, it may be almost laughable that a company one-ninth the size of Nike in revenues should be perceived as a threat. But, when that company is Under Armour, should Nike be concerned? Under Armour reported a 22% increase in net income in the third quarter, and it anticipates 20% growth next year, too. Does Under Armour have the ability to disrupt the athletic apparel and footwear categories (more than it has already), or is it destined to be a niche player? 

Under Armour is Becoming a Viable Threat to Nike, by Hayley Peterson, Business Insider

6. NBA D-League Solidifies Brand Positioning

Yes, the NBA Development League still exists. In fact, it may be stronger than ever. Today, the 18-team D-League has situated itself in markets that are basketball hotbeds or in markets relatively close to NBA markets. In addition to be a proving ground for prospective NBA players, the D-League has been a laboratory for the NBA to test concepts such as jersey sponsorships. Its evolution has raised the D-League's profile as legitimate sports entertainment property.Is the D-League right-sized in its current makeup, or should further market growth be in the plans?

D-League Grows at Tip Off, by Joe Favorito, Sports Marketing & PR Roundup

Picture of the Week

Sports is a form of "social glue." It has a unique property of giving people a common bond around which to rally during times of adversity. The latest example of this characteristic of sports played out last week following the tragic shootings in Ottawa on Parliament Hill. At the first home game following the shootings, the Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils broke from the custom of starting players lining up on opposing blue lines for the national anthems. Instead, all players formed a circle at center ice, Ottawa and New Jersey players literally side-by-side, to show their support for something far more significant than anything that would happen on the ice at Canadian Tire Centre that evening. Well played, gentlemen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #13

In my part of the world, summer has finally given way to fall. Leaves are changing colors and it is almost time to break out heavier clothing. All of these changes can mean only one thing: It is peak season for sports fans. Almost every sport is in season, preseason, or postseason. Enjoy!

1. The NFL's Return to Los Angeles is Imminent... or Not.

How can a national brand survive without business operations in the nation's second largest market? That question has been asked of the National Football League for 20 years, which is how long it has been since the Rams and Raiders called L.A. home. The mayor of Los Angeles recently predicted that an NFL franchise would be playing in the city in the next 12-24 months. Which side needs the other more- L.A. needing the NFL, or the NFL needing L.A.? Talk has come up before about the NFL's return to L.A.- is now the time for it to happen?

2. Companies Compete to be Under Armour's Next Big Thing

Under Armour is known for its innovative ways. After all, it is the company that created the industry disruption that is known as performance apparel. Another way in which Under Armour is innovative is reflected in how it seeks out new product ideas. The company held a Future Show event recently in which companies competed to win favor with Under Armour executives. The prevailing idea was Omegawave, a wearable product that won out from a field of more than 1,000 entries. Competitions such as these are not a replacement for a firm's research and development department, but should more businesses follow Under Armour's lead to crowdsource new product ideas? Are there any drawbacks to using this approach?

Under Armour Holds a Game Show to Find Its Future, by Kyle Stock, Bloomberg Businessweek

3. Imitation: Sincerest Form of Flattery versus Stealing IP

In many aspects of life, imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery. However, in business imitation of products is not only frowned upon, it can be illegal. Businesses invest heavily to develop products and build brands and thus are afforded legal protection of their intellectual property through patents and trademarks. Competitors sometimes push the envelope in an effort to make knockoff products that do not cross the line of violating the IP rights another company owns. This issue has arisen for Nike's Converse brand, 31 times to be exact, as it has taken legal action against companies making products that infringe upon the design of the company's iconic Chuck Taylor brand. Converse is a $1.7 billion brand for Nike, so it stands to reason that it would take steps to protect the brand. The case makes for interesting discussion about how vigilant a brand should be in protecting its marketing assets.

4. LeBron James: King of Basketball, Kia Lover?

LeBron James is nicknamed King James. His basketball skills are matched by his prowess as a brand endorser. His latest endorsement is with Kia Motors, being named the brand's first luxury brand ambassador. At first glance, this pairing might draw skeptical responses from consumers, much like the pairing of Buick and Tiger Woods more than a decade ago. However, the James-Kia relationship is interesting because it was LeBron who approached Kia about forming a relationship. This dimension of the story must be told as it breaks from convention of big brand hiring a celebrity to shill on the brand's behalf. LeBron James wanted to be an ambassador for Kia.

5. Does FanDuel Represent the Future of Fantasy Sports?

Daily games, which require less time commitment from players, have quickly gained popularity among fantasy sports players. One of the top vendors in this emerging category is FanDuel. It tripled revenue during the most recent quarter compared to a year ago and has more than 500,000 paid users. Does the popularity of daily games offered by FanDuel and DraftKings suggest that fantasy sports consumption will undergo a radical shift that will threaten traditional season-long games, or are they simply a new product category that appeals to a different customer not served by traditional fantasy games?

FanDuel's Fantasy Sports Games are Generating Tangible Revenue, by Kurt Wagner, re/code

6. NBA's New TV Deal: End of an Era?

The National Basketball Association recently announced a new TV contract with Turner and ESPN worth $24 billion. The deal falls in line with escalating rights fees paid by media companies to acquire precious sports content. Live programming like sporting events generate good ratings, which translates into potentially more advertising revenue. But, is there a danger of a sports media bubble burst, just as we saw with Internet companies in 2000 and the banking industry in 2008? Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist thinks so, pointing out that the supply of sports programming available to consumers is greater than ever. At what point will audiences becoming fragmented, lowering ratings and making future massive TV contracts less likely?

NBA's Big-Money TV Deal Could Be a Vanishing Breed, Analysts Say, by Steve Ginsburg, Reuters

Video of the Week

The walk-off home run is one of the most exciting moments in baseball. That moment is even more special when it propels a team to the World Series. We saw this dramatic event when Travis Ishikawa's three-run blast ended the Giants-Cardinals NLCS.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #12

This is the "I should be outside raking leaves during fall break" installment of Pick 6- What's been happening in sports business?

1. Branded Content Makes Its Way to Sports Media Apps

Annoyed by ads and video pre-roll when you are using mobile apps? A workaround to that issue is to integrate brands into app content. Dick's Sporting Goods is doing just that in collaboration with ESPN's WatchESPN app. Is advertising still perceived  as advertising by the audience when it is presented as entertainment as part of an app interaction?

2. Make Twitter an Indispensable Professional Development Tool

Students- Let your classmates be the ones using Twitter to tell their friends how bored they are in class or how wasted they got last night. Take another approach to using Twitter: Key professional development tool. Use Twitter to identify "persons of interest," keep tabs on current events, and build a network. In addition, use two powerful Twitter features- chats and hashtags- to benefit your professional preparation.

3. Beacons Signal New Fan Experience at College Football Games

Beacon technology holds great promise for digital marketing. The ability to communicate with people in the context of their current physical location can add value by enhancing the relevance of communications with them. Ole Miss is incorporating beacon technology at football games to create a more memorable game day experience. What are other ways that beacon technology could be used to add value for fans? Are there any risks or concerns to introducing this technology to live sporting events?

4. Social Media Takes Prominent Role in Athletics Marketing at Big Ten Schools

You have likely heard the saying "define your brand or it will be defined for you." This thought is especially relevant to social media. As a brand owner, you can be a passive spectator to what others are saying about you (please don't), or you can proactively monitor, promote, and participate in the conversation. Some college football programs are following in the footsteps of their professional tea counterparts by establishing social media hubs or command centers. 

5. Hall of Fame Coach Says Nike Too Influential in College Basketball

Perhaps you did a double take when reading the headline. A college coach whose program benefits from a $2.6 million per year investment from an athletic shoe company thinks shoe companies are too influential? In this case, University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino singled out Nike (Louisville's partner is Adidas). Pitino lamented that shoe companies have too much influence among high school players, to the point they can sway which school a prized recruit decides to attend. Perhaps Pitino's primary complaint has merit: Does the money and product shoe companies spend with college athletic programs give them a disproportionate voice in decision making within an athletic department?

6. Are Live Sports a Blessing or Curse for Cable TV Industry?

We are in the Golden Age of sports consumption. If you are a sports fan, you can gorge on more live events, shows, archived content, and sports entertainment in general than ever before. It is not only our appetite for sports that has created this content glut; TV networks have driven up rights fees by realizing the value of sports to attract audiences. But, the lure of sports comes at a cost- first to the TV networks paying rights fees and second to the viewers in the form of higher monthly bills. Are we close to a tipping point beyond which higher fees damage the profitability of networks and customers are turned off by ever rising rates?

How TV's Sports Addiction Could Kill Its Business, by Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

Video of the Week

A new feature beginning with this post is sharing an interesting clip from the sports world. As a Nashville Predators fan, I had to pick this clip. Ottawa Senators forward David Legwand spent the first 14 seasons of his NHL career in Nashville, so when he played his first game in Nashville as a visitor he reverted to an old habit: Going to the Nashville penalty box when he got a penalty. The penalty box attendant gave him directions to the appropriate destination. It reinforces the notion that we are indeed creatures of habit!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #11

This week's Pick 6 image is in honor of my niece, Olivia, who just had her 6th birthday! Here are some other noteworthy events that have taken place recently.

1. Club sport teams represent University of Alabama... or not

The University of Alabama is a powerhouse on the football field and at the cash register. Alabama trails on the University of Texas in licensed merchandise sales. A brand that has value of such magnitude must be dogged in protecting its identity and image. At the University of Alabama, brand management now includes forbidding club teams from using the same brand marks used by the intercollegiate programs. The University is developing separate branding for club sports teams. Although this policy seems to devalue the participation of students in club sports, it may be a needed step to protect the brand assets of the institution.

University Restricts Club Sports Uniforms, by Shelby Akin, The Crimson White

2. Michael Phelps' next comeback: Regain favor with sponsors?

Michael Phelps is an Olympic legend. Unfortunately, his speed in the pool was overshadowed recently by his speed in a Baltimore tunnel (clocked going 84 MPH in a 45 zone). A DUI charge (his second) and uncertainty whether he has what it takes to compete at an elite level in the 2016 Olympics may put his endorsement future at risk. Phelps earns an estimated $10 million annually from brands including Omega, Subway, and HP, but will his latest legal issue cause brands to reconsider their association with him?

3. The next dynamic pro sport brand - The Los Angeles Clippers?

New Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is known for displaying fire and passion from his days as Microsoft's CEO. He has brought the same enthusiasm to the Clippers, a franchise desperately in need of a new leadership face following the Donald Sterling debacle. All signs point to Ballmer being an engaged owner concerned with fan and sponsor relationships with his team brand. He even proclaimed that he wants to make the Clippers the next "America's team." We'll see about that, but in the meantime it is refreshing to see the positive energy surrounding this franchise.

4. Media becomes more influential customer for sport properties

If you are a sports fan that feels you have less of a voice or are not as important to your favorite team, you might have good reason for feeling that way. The proportion of revenue a sport organization derives from ticket sales continues to slowly drop relative to media and sponsorship rights fees. As the value of media contracts continues to rise, the gap between ticket revenue and media rights revenues is becoming smaller than ever. And, sponsorship revenue is growing at higher rates than ticket sales. Going forward, how will sport properties preserve the value of the live event attendance for ticket buyers?

5. Speaking of the growing influence of media...

The National Basketball Association has renewed its broadcast deal with ESPN and TNT, a nine-year extension worth a reported $24 billion. The value is triple the amount of the last deal. Has the value of the NBA as an entertainment platform tripled in recent years? Is the amount paid a power play to keep upstart Fox Sports One out of the NBA? What is the ceiling for rights fees, and are we anywhere close to hitting it? Finally, how does this deal affect fans (a higher cable bill is one outcome that comes to mind)?

NBA agrees to enormous 9-year TV deal, by Sam Amick, USA Today

6. Coming to a Concession Stand Near You: Bitcoin?

Many sports venues have wrestled with how to incorporate more technology into payment systems for merchandise and foodservice operations. Georgia Tech is introducing a different technology into its business: Bitcoin. The university is partnering with BitPay to accept Bitcoin as payment for concessions at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Is this a novelty or a forerunner of payment systems at sport venues?

Ga. Tech to allow Bitcoin at games, by David M. Hale,

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #10

The NFL is grabbing attention, but for all the wrong reasons. Thankfully, their are other happenings in sports marketing that are not as troubling. This week's Pick 6 is a blend of NFL happenings and other news from the industry.

1. Major League Soccer Gets a Logo Makeover

For the first time since the league began play in 1996, Major League Soccer has updated its logo. The revised logo is distinctive in that its color scheme can be adapted to match that of any MLS club. Is this the future of league logos?

2. Radisson Takes a Stand, Wins Approval on Social Media

Among the fallout from the Adrian Peterson story was sponsors taking steps to distance themselves from Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings. Radisson Hotels was one sponsor that made such a decision, announcing that it was dropping its sponsorship of the Vikings. Although the company probably did not make the decision for publicity reasons, the impact was noticeable and immediate. Radisson mentions on social media in one day were 58% of the total of brand mentions it had received in three months. A majority of the mentions of the Radisson brand were positive. The brand had little to lose by disassociating with the Vikings, and as it turned out it gained admirers for taking a stand.

3. Procter &  Gamble Moves NFL Activation to Sidelines

The NFL has a major initiative in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but one of its corporate partners has decided to not participate this season. P&G's Crest brand will not go through with its planned activation, providing pink mouthguards to players, in response to the league's handling of domestic violence cases involving some of its players. Is P&G making the right move to distance itself from the NFL brand, or are there other ways to show disapproval of the situation without canceling the planned activation?

4. Univlever Connects with College Football

While P&G is scrambling to get away from the NFL, another consumer powerhouse brand is using football to connect with fans, college football that is. Unilever is an official NCAA football sponsor and is aligning multiple brands- Axe, Dove+ Care, Degree, Suave Men, Clear, and Vasoline- and is featuring ESPN personality Jesse Palmer in its marketing. The program is the latest in  Unilever's strategy of using sports to connect with men.

Unilever Launches Retail Program around NCAA Football by Karl Greenberg, Marketing Daily 

5. Will New NCAA Scholarship Policy Impact Sponsors?

The NCAA recently approved institutions from the "Big 5" conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC) extending "full cost" scholarships to student athletes. Many observers believe this decision is a step toward these conferences becoming more powerful and an effort by the NCAA to keep them from breaking away. College athletics sponsors should be monitoring these developments to determine their next steps in partnering with institutions, particularly ones included in the new scholarship policy. 

What the NCAA Autonomy Vote Means for Sponsors by Vince O'Brien, GMR Marketing Blog

6. MLB's  Addition to Product Lineup Card: Wines

What does Major League Baseball have to do with wine marketing? It turns out there are 10 million reasons for MLB to be in the wine business, as in $10 million retail sales estimated from the league's  foray into event and team-branded wines. MLB licensed wines provide yet another outlet for fans to exhibit affinity for their favorite team while giving the league a revenue stream that is associated with an upscale product.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #9

Week 3 of college football, week 2 of the NFL, two weeks to go in the MLB season, and NHL camps are about to open... and that is just a partial rundown of what is going on! It's my favorite time of year to be a sports fan. Here are six stories of interest:

1. US. World Cup Stars Score Big

The U.S. men's soccer team might have fallen short in its quest for success in the FIFA World Cup, but star players Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore continue to score as product endorsers. What are the endearing attributes of Dempsey and Altidore that make them such appealing brand ambassadors? 

2. Fantasy Sports Finds Growth in Daily Games

A hot segment of the fantasy sports industry is daily games. They appeal to players who may not be interested in making a season-long commitment to manage a fantasy team. And, another attraction of daily games is that many of them involve cash prizes. The long term promise of the daily games segment is uncertain as questions about the legality of some pay games exist, specifically whether they are a form of betting. If daily games survive legal challenges, their impact on the business of fantasy sports could be huge.

Daily Fantasy Games Propel Industry to New Heights, by Jason Barmasse, 

3. IndyCar, IMS Turn Corner

The IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) have languished for many years, overshadowed by NASCAR in the U.S. and Formula 1 globally. However, better times may be ahead for Hulman & Co., owners of the two brands. But, what obstacles or other barriers to growth loom around the corner they have turned?

4. Declining student attendance for college football: Catalyst for Long Term Problems?

College football is wildly popular in the U.S., trailing only the NFL in fan interest. But, a noticeable trend occurring in recent years on many college campuses is declining student attendance at football games. Why worry given that many students pay reduced prices for tickets or even get in for free? The concern is that an apathetic student body today becomes an apathetic alumni in the future. Marketers must step up their game and make football games a compelling entertainment experience for their customers... including students.

Empty Seats Now, Fewer Donors Later? by Jake New, Inside Higher Ed

5. Washington Redskins Products Not Welcome at Etsy

The ongoing controversy about the appropriateness of the nickname "Redskins" for the Washington NFL franchise gained another detractor. The e-commerce site Etsy announced it would no longer let sellers offer products featuring Redskins name or logo on the site. Etsy said the decision was guided by its corporate values and weighed freedom speech against freedom from discrimination. Will other retailers follow suit?

Etsy Bans Redskins Products from Its Site over Offensive Name, by Tony Manfred and Christian Storm, Business Insider

6. Does the NFL Need to Mend Fences with Female Fans?

An estimated 46 percent of the NFL fan base is female. In the fallout from the NFL's handling of Ray Rice's discipline in his domestic violence case, some public relations experts believe the NFL has work to do to rebuild credibility among fans, particularly females. The league's approach to marketing to women occasionally raises eyebrows, such as the observation that one of the main marketing tactics for targeting women is offering a wide variety of pink merchandise. The Ray Rice and other domestic violence cases are far more serious. How the NFL responds will send a message about its views on protecting women and children, but will the message be satisfactory?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #8

It's the back-to-school, back from gallbladder surgery edition. What's been happening in sports business that is worthy of your attention?

1. Michael Sam's potential as product endorser

The verdict on Michael Sam as a football player is still out as he works to make the St. Louis Rams. At the same time, there are questions about the suitability of Sam as a product endorser. Research from Networked Insights analyzed social media sentiment pertaining to Sam and an endorsement deal with Visa. Findings from the research suggested Sam is not as good of a fit for Visa as he would be for brands such as Adidas, Saucony, and Coach (none of which have signed Sam as endorser).

Are Michael Sam and Visa a Bad Match? by Melissa Rudy, Adweek

2. Beginning of the Great Divide in College Athletics?

A recent ruling by the NCAA seems to have set the stage for institutions in the five most powerful conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC) to offer more financial support to their student athletes. The result might be a further division between institutions in these five conferences and everyone else. The dilemma facing "everyone else" is represented in an article profiling Fresno State University's athletic programs.

In Middle Tier, College Sports Tries to Adjust by John Branch, The New York Times

3. MLB's New Commissioner Quiet about Priorities

Rob Manfred, a long-time lieutenant to outgoing MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, has been selected as the next commissioner. One of the first questions asked of Manfred was what his priorities would be when he assumes the helm. So far, Manfred has not tipped his hand about how his agenda will take shape. Perhaps he does not have to worry about that as there are enough opinions as to what his focus should be- speeding up games, growing baseball at the grassroots level, making more use of technology.

4. EPL's Anti-Social Media Policy

A new season of English Premier League soccer has begun. Fans attending matches must curb their enthusiasm to post video snippets of the action. The league came out with a message for fans: Do not post video of goals on Twitter or Vine. The policy is in support of broadcast partners that pay dearly for the rights to EPL content. But, does the effort to "protect" media partners come at the expense of promoting the sport? The policy was the second anti-technology directive in a week following Manchester United telling fans not to bring tablets to the stadium. Is technology a significant threat to EPL and its partners?

5. When You Ask for Fan Input, You Will Get It

From the "When Will They Ever Learn?" department- US Soccer thought it would be a good idea for fans to ask US Women's National Team goalkeeper Hope Solo questions on Facebook as she closed in on setting the USWNT record for shutouts. When given the invitation, fans responded... only not with the questions envisioned. Solo's off-the-field problems with domestic violence charges were fodder for posts such as "I thought she was more of a striker lately" and "It's certainly going to be hard to get the ball through the prison bars and past her." Some people questioned the wisdom of promoting an athlete who is embroiled in legal problems. Perhaps US Soccer could have learned from Florida State University athletics and its similar experience when inviting Twitter followers to post questions for quarterback Jameis Winston (who has had legal problems, too). 

6. Dish Network Finds Its Football Niche

What do you do when your main competitor has a lock on a valuable category? You go find another category to dominate. That is exactly the path taken by Dish Network. With DirecTV owning the lucrative NFL market, Dish Network set its sights on being the brand for Saturday football. The company has amassed a collection of collegiate TV properties including the SEC Network, Big 10 Network, Pac-12 Network, and Longhorn Network. The passion for college football in the South and Midwest offers Dish Network a marketing opportunity to match its sports programming assets with fan affinity.

Dish Network Makes Itself a College Football Powerhouse, by Greg Avery, Denver Business Journal

Photo Credit:

Monday, July 28, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #7

Here are a few of the sports business happenings reported in the last week:

1. Brands Continue Pursuit of Engagement via Apps

Sports related brands continue to try to figure out how to get consumers to connect with their brands via mobile apps. Players such as Nike and The North Face are rolling out new apps that strive to deliver useful content.

2. Adidas, Champs Sports Serve Their Own Take on Short Stories

Who said videos have to be long to be good? Adidas and Champs Sports hope they don't as the two brands have partnered to create four online shows that will be delivered via the Champs Sports's Instagram page. The campaign is an acknowledgement that consumers prefer watching short videos, and it is safe to classify 15 seconds as a short video.

3. Olympians Show Entrepreneurial Flair

The Olympics are a spectator sport spectacle, but often lost in the drama and excitement of a two-week Olympic Games is the reality that athletes train for years for the chance to compete for a few minutes. This commitment comes at a cost, not only of time but a financial cost, too. And, not every Olympic athlete has the luxury of rich endorsement deals to support them. Thus, some athletes have adopted the same channel that aspiring entrepreneurs use- crowdfunding. 

Crowdunding for Athletes Shows Potential, by Michael Ibberson, CrowdClan

4. CrossFit's Disciplined Approach to Brand Growth

CrossFit has emerged as a significant player in the fitness market. One of the key's to CrossFit's success has been a steady commitment to fulfilling the brand's promise, even forsaking financial gain at times in the process. An "excellence over money" mindset is one piece of evidence that CrossFit's top priority is a consistent brand. CrossFit founder Greg Glassman says the company could be a $100 million brand if it ventured into logical extensions like branded supplements or protein shakes. But don't look for those products anytime soon- they are incongruent with the brand's commitment to be a high quality training program.

How CrossFit Built a Passion Brand, by Maureen Morrison, Ad Age 

5. Nike: Official Ambush Marketer of FIFA World Cup?

Nike has done it again; it succeeded in creating associations with a major sporting event that it did not sponsor. A survey of Brazilian, US, and UK consumers included 30% who incorrectly identified Nike as an official World Cup sponsor. The level of unearned association was not too much less than the 36% of consumers who correctly identified rival Adidas as a sponsor. Given Nike's ambush marketing accomplishments, should it ever buy official sponsor rights to any property ever again?

6. Under Armour's Football Season Marketing Plans Include Women

Football season represents a major selling opportunity for apparel marketers like Under Armour, so what is up with its plans for a marketing campaign aimed at women during the same time period? The answer is simple- sales of women's products are hot for Under Armour. The women's market represents huge opportunity to meet the needs of customers ranging from "female athletes" to "athletic females."

Why Under Armour is Targeting Women during Football Season, by Sarah Meehan, Baltimore Business Journal

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #6

FIFA World Cup Championship, MLB All-Star Game, and The Open Championship- Other than that, not much happening in sports this week. Here are six stories that fell just outside the list of big sporting events:

1. Marketing Takeaways from FIFA World Cup

The World Cup was more than a soccer tournament; it was a global water cooler around which people gathered to support their country and follow events in Brazil in real time. Three observations from the World Cup pertain to the influence of Millennials, the lingering specter of racism, and the lives and loves of Latinos. 

2. Adidas Replaces Nike as Manchester United as Kit Supplier

One does not often think of Nike walking away from a partnership because it is too expensive, but that is exactly what it did when deciding not to continue pursuit of a new deal to be Manchester United's kit supplier. The price had become too high, in Nike's estimation. Enter Adidas, which agreed to a 10 year, $`.3 billion agreement with the club that begins next year. What are the motivations for Adidas to enter into such a huge agreement? How will Adidas earn back return on this investment?

Manchester United and Adidas Agree to Richest Uniform Deal Ever, by Mike Ozanian, Forbes

3. Yet More Advice on Pursuing a Career in Sports Business

Advice on how to break into sports and pursue a career seems to be as abundant as grass. Everyone has opinions about what it takes to stand out and succeed. Often, aspiring sports business professionals get mixed signals about what it is important, what they should do to prepare, and so on. Brian Clapp, a sports media veteran, discusses six myths about sports business careers. 

4. SEC Network Signs Important Distribution Agreement

The SEC Network is scheduled to launch in less than one month (August 14th). While most ingredients are present for a successful product (avid fans, wide market reach, and a tremendous amount of content, to name three), one key variable for which work remains to be done is distribution. Fans, reach, and content do a product little good if it cannot get into the hands of the audience who values it. The SEC Network took a major step toward removing the distribution barrier by reaching agreement with Comcast Xfinity to carry the new channel. Two significant distribution points remain to be sold- DirecTV (20 million subscribers) and Time Warner Cable (11 million subscribers). At this point, does the SEC Network have market penetration via its carriage agreements that it can do just fine without DirecTV and Time Warner Cable?

5. Professional Bull Riders Exports to China

The Professional Bull Riders (PBR) has established itself as a solid sports entertainment property over the past twenty years. It branched out from its US base to have a presence in Australia, Brazil, Canada, and Mexico. Now, it is planning to extend its reach farther with a venture into China. The large population of China makes it an attractive prospect, but it may not even be the market with greatest potential (Brazil is considered to be very lucrative for PBR). How will PBR prioritize its growth pursuit beyond the US?

6. SEC Takes Page from MLS Playbook

Given the passion for college football and the struggle for soccer to gain acceptance in this country, you may think it is a typo when you read that the Southeastern Conference has looked to Major League Soccer for ideas on how to spark attendance. Some SEC programs have found it challenging to get students to attend games. One MLS club, Sporting Kansas City, has shared with some SEC schools practices on layout of the physical space and how to use data to more effectively market to fans. The article brings out the issue of exploring other ways a sports property can learn from other organizations, either within the industry or outside of sports.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pick 6: Brands, Stories, and Trends Shaping Sports Business #5

Here is the latest installment of six articles on sports business topics that are suitable for self-development, classroom discussion, or mere entertainment. 

1. Timing is Everything

The 2014 FIFA World Cup has shattered all records for exposure and interest as measured by social media conversations and shares, digital streaming, and TV ratings. How can American soccer capitalize on the heightened interest in soccer after the World Cup concludes? Even MLS clubs with the most fervent fan followings stand to gain by building on World Cup frenzy. What are ways to parlay World Cup interest into MLS interest? 

2. NASCAR Competitors Form Alliance

The racing on the track may be intense, but nine NASCAR teams have come together off the track to form a business alliance. Known as the Race Team Alliance, the teams will be pooling knowledge and resources on business best practices and creating greater buying power than possible on their own. Is this a model that other sports leagues should consider adopting? Can they come together in an "all for one, one for all" alliance given that most of the time their objective is to defeat and be superior to competition?

3. DirecTV adds Fantasy Football Channel to Lineup

If you are a fantasy football player and looking for one more reason to stay home instead of going to NFL games, DirecTV is a adding a fantasy football channel. The channel, dubbed Fantasy Zone, will offer fantasy-related content and updates. Will the introduction of DirectTV's Fantasy Zone be more effective at enhancing the fan experience of indirect consumption or dissuading fans from attending games in person?

4. Michelle Wie- Finally a Golf Superstar?

Michelle Wie has been in the spotlight as a golfer and product endorser for over a decade. Her professional accomplishments left a little to be desired, namely tournament championships. This year, the now 24-year-old Wie has won two tourneys including the U.S. Women's Open. Her stock as a product endorser appears to be on the rise again. More importantly, could Wie become the face of the LPGA that it so needs for raising the brand's profile? 

Michelle Wie's Star Power Rising, by Mechelle Voepel, ESPNW

5. Russell Westbrook Framing Success as Product Designer

It is not unusual for professional athletes to have a hand in designing products. However, most of these ventures are closely related to their source of celebrity such as sneaker brands. NBA star Russell Westbrook is the latest in a growing list of pro athletes branching out into design of lifestyle products. He is behind Westbrook Frames, a line of fashion sunglasses retailing for $95-145. Is this the beginning of a broader collection of lifestyle products from Westbrook? Does he have the personal brand equity and image to propel his products to success?

6. Sneaker Deals 2.0

Adidas signed Andrew Wiggins, the first overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, to a multi-year deal with a guaranteed $2 million annually. Not a bad payday, but it is significantly less than deals star NBA players have received in the past. This fact is not a knock on Wiggins as much as it represents a shift in how sneaker companies view the role of star players today. The number of players that can ascend to the status of being "brandworthy" are few and far between. The next Michael Jordan or LeBron James will come, but who it is and long it will be are unknown. In the meantime, sneaker brands are scaling back the investments made in star players, particularly ones at the beginning of the professional careers.