SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: December 21, 2023

Episode Summary

Signing off on '23 with what to watch and special thanks

Episode Transcription

Abe Madkour:

This is your final Morning Buzzcast for 2023, and today is Thursday, December 21st. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Let's lead with the news around soccer because you may not have noticed, but an interesting little debate between Major League Soccer and the sanctioning body, US Soccer is taking place and it's over MLS's participation in the US Open Cup next year. Bottom line, US Soccer rejected MLS's requests to allow reserve teams playing in MLS Next Pro to participate in the US Open Cup instead of the top parent clubs in Major League Soccer. So this decision to reject MLS's request creates a stalemate between the sports governing body in the US and its top domestic league about the future of this national soccer competition. So why is it important? Well, the US Open Cup typically features all US-based MLS clubs and teams from the USL Division 2, USL League 1, and the National Independent Soccer Association, as well as amateur teams.

It's the only opportunity for lower division teams to compete against MLS teams and potentially advance to international competition as the winner receives a berth in the CONCACAF Champions Cup. But it should be noted, an MLS Club has won every Open Cup since 1999. US Soccer is stating that its rules indicate that MLS main clubs must participate, but MLS is pushing back for various reasons. It cites its crowded schedule and some sources believe that MLS doesn't feel the Open Cup games have been to the quality of standards that it expects, and there's also some dispute about the economics around the event. So again, it's an interesting stalemate between the two largest soccer groups in the US. And remember, up until this year, MLS's commercial arm, Soccer United Marketing, controlled the commercial rights to the Open Cup. But when US Soccer decided to end that relationship and handle its own commercial activity, those rights reverted to the sanctioning body.

So with that change, MLS may have less interest in this event, something certainly to keep your eye on. Staying with soccer, MLS released its schedule for next season, which will run for nearly 10 months, and that includes a month-long break in the regular season for the second Leagues Cup. That was the tournament launched in '23, featuring clubs from MLS and Liga MX. The regular season schedule model, which has most of its games played on Saturdays and Wednesdays will be back for 2024. The regular season will begin earlier than ever, and Lionel Messi will be front and center with the kickoff Wednesday, February 21st, one game only, Inter Miami and Real Salt Lake at Drive Pink Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. Meanwhile, I'm sure every club is circling Messi's visit and running their ticket prices through every algorithm possible to make sure they're maximizing sales pricing and output.

Let's move on. I was talking to a chief revenue officer of an NBA team recently, and they told me one area of focus for them is on retail, wishing that there was more fashion oriented retail items for various fans. They believe that can really build a brand. Their point was that things are still too traditional when it comes to licensing and merchandise. So I thought of this as the Nets debut their first private label merchandise brand called Berō. And it has cardigans and soccer jerseys and polo shirts, a lot of different lines, exclusively available on the team's e-commerce site and at the Barclays Center. It's very fashion forward. It doesn't use the team's IP, and it looks to appeal to a wider base, not just Nets fans. This comes after the Utah Jazz also debuted their own private label brand, and that's called Counterpoint. And last week we saw the NFL release its second collection in partnership with October's very own.

That is the lifestyle brand co-founded by Drake. So you are seeing more and more sports brands want to be in the middle of music and culture and having new fashion partnerships like this, and new merchandise items like these certainly helps. A lot of news this week out of the LA 2028 Olympic Committee. On Wednesday, we reported that Chief Business Officer Brian Lafemina is leaving the committee. Lafemina was hired in April 2019 to oversee various partnerships and hospitality and ticketing. He's had stints with the commanders. He worked at Madison Square Garden, he worked at the NFL. He is a very well regarded operator. And under Lafemina, he led some of the Olympic Committee's key operational deals, like I said, for ticketing, for hospitality, and using data and analytics for customer segmentation. So Brian Lafemina will move on. His previous stints in pro team sports could indicate an interest to return there, where he would be in high demand.

LA28 did not have any information on replacing Lafemina. And remember, his move comes just after LA28 CEO Kathy Carter stepped down to move into a role as a senior adviser. So a lot of leadership changes around LA28 and they come before the Paris games this summer. And there's been a narrative that as the games move from building an operation to delivering the actual games, this transition is natural. And I'm sure that there's also the factor that top executives are likely having to tell LA Chair Casey Wasserman that they are in it for the long haul through 2028. And that can be a tough personal decision and that may weigh into these moves. But we've seen two top changes to the org structure at LA28 this week. And new NBC Sports President Rick Cordella is putting his team in place and he has expanded the role of longtime media executive Damon Phillips, putting Phillips in charge of digital and emerging businesses.

Phillips will also keep oversight of the company's diversity and inclusion efforts. Phillips new title is SVP NBC Sports Digital and Emerging Business, and he will continue to report to Cordella. Damon Phillips was an SBJ Forty Under 40 honoree selection in 2010, so you see he's a media veteran. He'll oversee, sports betting, fantasy sports, NBC Sports Audio, and the NBC Sports Podcast Network. And as I mentioned, this is the final Buzzcast episode of 2023. I was asked yesterday what I'm watching in 2024. So here's a glimpse. Obviously I'm watching to see if more sovereign wealth funds invest in sports. I really am interested how the PGA Tour, Saudi Public Investment Fund and Signature Sports Groups deals get done. If they do get done, how do they get implemented and what does that mean? I'm interested in how Paris will perform this July with the Summer Olympics.

I'm curious if Congress will take any action around college sports and name, image and likeness. And finally, in a presidential election year, I'm very curious what role sports teams, organizations, and athletes will play during the campaign and how that is received publicly and by fans. So I hope you all have a wonderful safe holiday and New Year. We thank you for all your support of SBJ and especially of the Buzzcasts. Please continue to listen in 2000 twenty-four, spread the word, tell your friends and let's make a point to see each other down the road.

I also want to personally thank you for your support of me during a challenging year. Also, a thanks to our tireless producers, Reggie Walker and Chris Mason for making us sound good every day. And also a hat tip to David Albright, Austin Karp and Joe LaMere, for picking up the Buzzcasts during my travels. So that is your final morning Buzzcast for 2023, December 21st. I'm Abe Madkour. Stay healthy, be really good to each other, have a great holiday and New Year, and I'll speak to you in 2024.