SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: March 14, 2023

Episode Summary

Early insight into the Sports Business Award nominations; don’t sleep on St. Louis as a hot sports city and Legends digs deeper into golf.

Episode Transcription

Let's start breaking down the nominees of the 2023 Sports Business Awards. This is your Morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, March 14th. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour.

Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. It's one of the biggest nights in the sports business. It'll happen May 24th in New York, the Sports Business Awards, on Monday. The nominees were announced and there are 95 nominees across the multiple categories. There are a number of familiar companies and names on the list, but also a lot of newcomers. It's going to be a really special night on May 24th as we also honor NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman with SBJ's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Let's spend some time breaking down the categories over this week on the Buzzcast. This year we introduce two new categories; Best in Sports Betting and Deal of the Year. Deal of the year was one we've long wanted to do, and this year the five nominees for Deal of the Year are number one, The Big Ten conference and Fox, CBS and NBC agreeing to a seven-year media rights agreement. Number two, Major League Soccer and Apple's 10-year media rights agreement. Number three, Michele Kang's acquisition of the Washington Spirit. Number four, RedBird Capital Partners sale of its stake in One Team Partners. And the fifth nominee in deal of the year is the Walton-Penner Group's acquisition of the Denver Broncos. So those are the nominees for Deal of the Year.

Let's move on to the nominees for Best in Sports Betting. Number one is Capital One Arena in Washington DC for their much publicized high profile sports book. The two leaders in the category are up. Both DraftKings and FanDuel are nominees for Best in Sports Betting, also Simplebet. And number five, theScore Bet Sportsbook and Casino. And the sixth nominee in Best in Sports Betting is Warner Bros. Discovery Sports betting for integrating sports betting into media. So those are the nominees in our two new categories this year.

We will go over other categories this week and talk more about these awards as we lead up to the event on May 24th. Now it gets turned over to a panel of outside independent judges to review the nominees and vote to declare a winner. This process in the Sports Business Awards always one of the most enjoyable parts of the year for me at Sports Business Journal. So let's move on.

Well, don't sleep on St. Louis as a sports city as you've seen how the city has embraced its new MLS team and now it's showing real love for its XFL team. Sunday's XFL game in St. Louis saw more than 38,000 attend the dome at America Center for the St. Louis Battlehawks' first home game, and it marked the biggest crowd of the XFL season. For perspective, the biggest crowd in the 2020 version of the XFL was close to 30,000. That was also in St. Louis for that team's first home game. So St. Louis is showing real, real energy around the XFL. If the city continues to put up these types of numbers, it will open up a lot of eyes. Team officials said they could have sold even more tickets at the dome and they will sell more tickets at the dome if the demand continues. So keep your eye on what's going down in St. Louis around the XFL.

The sports agency, Legends, continues to believe and be bullish in golf and it's looking to increase its presence in the sport. Legends and the PGA of America have signed a deal that will see Legends Golf sell partnerships for some of the governing bodies. Biggest events including the PGA Championship and the KPMG Women's PGA championship and the Senior PGA Championship. Legends Golf will also handle some sales for the PGA's new headquarters in Frisco, Texas. Now, Legends plans to build a dedicated sales team around this partnership. It'll be led by President of Golf, Kevin Ring, who of course has worked in the golf industry for years. They'll also be helped by Chris Hibbs, who is president of Global Partnerships at Legends and executive Vice President of Global Partnerships, Chris Foy at Legends will also assist.

But we continue to see Legends, I would say, dive deeper and deeper into the golf business. Legends Golf already sells on behalf of the Ryder Cup, which is run by the PGA of America of course. And Legends Golf has a sales partnership with the USGA for the upcoming US Open at the LA Country Club. So bottom line, Legends getting deeper and deeper into the golf business.

More traction around women's sports as the Athletic is reporting that players who make up the Professional Women's Hockey Players Association have been told that a new Pro Women's Hockey League will be ready for the 2324 season. Players were told over the weekend while in California for the league's championship as longtime Dodgers executive Stan Kasten reportedly spoke with the players and confirmed that a league will launch later this year. Now, Stan Kasten is a partner of Dodgers controlling owner Mark Walter. And Walter got involved with the Professional Women's Hockey Players Association back in May when his Mark Walter Group entered into a formal relationship with Billie Jean King Enterprises to support and invest in the Women's Hockey League. Further details such as where the teams will be located and when the season will start are still to come, but this is good news for anyone interested in women's professional hockey.

Let's end the Buzzcast today around college sports. I have a friend who has done some work with Deion Sanders and they can't stop talking about Coach Prime and they keep telling me about the impact he is making a cross-college sports. Well, here is something interesting that shows that, and it shows just how big of a spotlight is on Sanders and the national attention of what's happening in Boulder. So a Colorado football spring game, the first with Deion Sanders as head coach will be broadcast on ESPN and more than 35,000 tickets have already been sold. That's right. ESPN will showcase Colorado's spring game on April 22nd live as part of its spring football coverage. It's the only spring game airing on ESPN. Yes, that means the spring game for the national champion, Georgia, will be on ESPN too. So Colorado gets ESPN. Meanwhile, more than 35,000 tickets have already been sold with more expected to be sold. It is already the most attended spring game in Colorado's history. And there is speculation this spring game in April could sell out at more than 50,000 fans. So you're seeing the impact of Deion Sanders in Colorado.

We know how successful new Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark has been in sales throughout his career. We know that one of his constant refrains since joining the Big 12 has been to focus on revenue generation at the conference. Well, all one has to look at is the recent Men's Basketball Championship as an example of Yormark's efforts as the conference announced its Men's Basketball championship that was just concluded was the highest grossing in conference history. The conference tournament, which is held in Kansas City, saw nearly a 40% increase in ticket revenue over last year.

Some of that was about pricing and new ticket inventory. It should be noted that media organizations complained formally over Yormark's decision to move the media seating from the lower bowl of the arena to an area much higher up in the facility. Brett Yormark made that move, of course, to sell some tickets closer to the court at a higher price point, and that certainly rankled members of the media. And like I said, they formally complained about that move. Meanwhile, the Big 12 Women's Tournament also saw an increase up 20% over last year in ticket revenue. So a successful conference Men's and Women's Championship for the Big 12 when it comes to generating revenue.

And finally, I'm sure you're all getting in your brackets before the men's and women's tournament start. The Men's Basketball Tournament begins tonight, Tuesday with the first four matchups in Dayton, Ohio. Women's Tournament starts tomorrow. As you get set to watch a lot of college basketball over the next month, expect to see a number of schools on the men's side outfitted in Nike shoes and apparel as SBJ reported yesterday that Nike has deals with the most schools in the tournament. Nike and its Jordan brand are outfitting 40 teams this year. That's one more than last year when they outfitted 39 teams. You'll see more schools on the men's side wearing Adidas. As it saw a significant jump from last year's Men's Tournament, they went from sponsoring 13 teams to outfitting 17 teams this year. That is Adidas' highest number of schools since 2017. Under Armour, on the other hand, saw the biggest decrease in teams sponsored going from 16 teams to 11 teams this year. So those are the brands you'll see on the court over the next few weeks on the men's side. We will break down the women's bracket later in the week.

And that is your Morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, March 14th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Thanks for spreading the word on the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.