Tidbits, Thoughts & Tips around sports business…
News, notes and nuggets from our Publisher for Aug 22-28
Another Wild Week in Sports Business
Don’t know about you, but to me it has felt like the ground right under our feet has shifted drastically and almost repeatedly since early March. We were on alert heading into conference hoops tournaments and then, of course, came the first seismic event on the evening of Mar 11, with the NBA shutting down.
For days, it sure felt like bad news was hitting by the minute in the form of sport after sport shutting down, schools going remote and businesses going dark everywhere.
The tremors continued until the killing of George Floyd brought another wave of massive, days long earthquakes.
Thanks to the return of sports, we’ve had some pleasant distractions, but positive player tests have kept us on edge (not to mention keeping teams from playing in both the NWSL and MLS tournaments). The outbreaks on college campuses and cancellations of most college fall sports have —
But perhaps the longest-lasting impact on sports—and society—may come following video surfacing of Sunday’s shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisc., and the resulting boycotts by players.
The Milwaukee Bucks statement: pic.twitter.com/F7XOPs4NqE
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) August 26, 2020
This felt like more than a massive earthquake where shifting plates release some pent-up energy. This was more than the annual plate shift of a few inches. This was more along the lines of the plates moving miles at a time.
WNBA players started the ball rolling and the Milwaukee Bucks set the movement ablaze by not taking the floor for a playoff game. Bill Russell’s legendary boycott came at an exhibition game and his white teammates still played. (Don’t get me started about how that was nearly sixty years ago, and here we are still talking about racial injustice.) This was the entire team willing to forfeit a playoff game—all during a season on the brink with all eyes on Orlando.
The huge, game-changing plate shift that we will forever look back on comes in the shift in the power dynamic between players and owners (and to a lesser extent between players and fans).
Rather than stopping with the Bucks, what unfolded next was remarkable. The entire NBA and WNBA shutdown, NFL camps stopped, MLS paused, MLB teams stopped playing, and, eventually, even NHL teams did the same.
Players of all backgrounds discussed, listened and stood up together for what is right. Owners, leagues (and fans) could not stop them. The entire nation was forced to think a bit as our distraction(s) weren’t playing games. Hopefully, maybe, some folks who hadn’t previously found empathy, did.
But the players definitely found their voices and put us all on alert that they are not going to be told what to do anymore.
There’s no going back now.
TMR Hat Tip: Mariners and T-Mobile leading the way with “Hometown Nine” program
On the topic of equality, we need to tip our hat to a team taking specific action, the Seattle Mariners, and you can add their ballpark naming rights partner, T-Mobile, to those deserving recognition.
Mariners Care, the M’s non-profit foundation, launched On BASE, a youth baseball/softball initiative to support “a network of coaches, athletes, and community members who collaborate to increase access to safe, competitive and positive playing experiences for young athletes across the Pacific Northwest” in 2018. (BASE stands for Baseball And Softball Everywhere.)
As part of a stepped-up commitment to social justice, the team announced Jul 31 it was “taking action to combat the systemic inequities that contribute to the growing inaccessibility of youth sports” and launching the On BASE Hometown Nine, a five-year commitment to nine incoming eighth-graders “to uplift young athletes of color in our communities, provide them with elite training opportunities and develop a cohort of leaders for decades to come. ”
Each fellowship will not only offset playing fees, but combat disparate playing experiences, offer access to elite training facilities and, perhaps most importantly, provide mentorship from a Mariners player and a front office member through high school to “uplift athletes of color in our region.”
Applications are open until Sep 7, with winners announced by Sep 16.
Today, the fellowships gained even more steam as T-Mobile became the Hometown Nine’s first founding partner with a donation of $50,000. The hope is they will be the first of many brands who step up to support this program or the community impact grants, Diverse Business Partners program or the two Diversity Fellowships the team has committed to hiring each year.
Experienced Dance Partners Available
“We have over 1,000 men and women in the group, and most, if not all, have amazing stories of success, overcoming failure and moving along with vibrant lives beyond basketball.” Sounds like great people to have as brand ambassadors, right? That’s exactly why Scott Rochelle and the National Basketball Retired Players Association launched Legends Media & Entertainment this week (and why he spoke that quote to TMR).
Redeploying Sports Marketing Dollars
Longtime sports marketer Tony Ponturo sees big changes in activation for return from the Great Sport Hiatus and the potential for teams, leagues and even entire sports to become irrelevant. The key? Creative activation and engagement, especially around social interaction. For more, read “Where Will the Sports Marketing Dollars Go?”
If you haven’t checked out our four part series on cannabis and CBD in sports business, what are you waiting for? In our latest piece, “The Sponsorship Match Game,” we look at potential brand-property matches that make perfect sense.
W.A.R. — Worth A Read
I get asked all the time who to follow or what to read in #SportsBiz, so I try to carve out a spot in each Rumination to call out the best of the best reporters and authors. This week is John WallStreet. Now part of the initial roster at Sportico, JWS is the brainchild of Corey Leff.
A veteran of working in both finance and sports radio—Corey launched his newsletter on Aug 17, 2017, to take matters into his own hands (as well as to have more fun than you can working in finance while eliminating the headaches from hot takes in sports talk). He used alter egos “Howie Long Short” and “Fan Marino” to breakdown sports business stories in ways Wall Street execs would appreciate while regular fans could still understand.
Since moving to Sportico this spring, Corey has continued to cranking out insightful stories on nearly a daily basis while adding the “John WallStreet Index” to tracks sports business performance day-to-day. The sports stock index is comprised of 50 small, mid and large cap public companies.
Give Corey a follow on twitter @howielongshort.
Have a weekend and, as always, stay fancentric friends!