Welcome to this week's edition of Extra Innings. This week saw another shakeup in college football as all the "Power 5" conferences have decided to return to play. Additionally, there is an underlying theme of spectators being allowed to return to stadiums, which is currently a team-by-team and state-by-state decision. The NFL will be a case study for the MLB, NHL, and NBA because if there is a discernible home-field advantage for teams that allow fans, those leagues will want to know about it.
The Pac-12 will have a football season this fall and has outlined a six-game regular season beginning on November 7th. A conference championship will be held on December 18th, and Pac-12 teams not participating in that championship will play an additional game that day. The conference also announced that the men's and women's basketball seasons would begin on November 25th. This timing is perfect because the number of games being played this fall almost fully satisfies the conference’s agreement with ESPN and FOX, allowing the conference to cash in on nearly $300 million from media contracts. Being able to benefit from these media contracts will help the schools avoid some of the financial hardships the athletic directors were expecting. Schools like U.C. Berkeley might still need to borrow money to finance its athletic activities - it is the most indebted university in the country currently - but the media contracts will undoubtedly help.
Many leagues have resorted to covering stadium seats with tarps covered in sponsors' logos to bring in additional add revenue. Recently, the NFL has adopted this approach. While the concept works in theory, it's difficult to put into practice because the stands aren't shown frequently enough during the game. This season, the NFL has allowed the first eight rows to be tarped during games, but the video camera angle doesn't always show that area of the stands unless the camera pans out and even then, the exposure is brief at best. The other issue facing sponsors' tarps is that most stadiums are bowl-shaped and only half of the sponsors’ tarps receive consistent air time. The reported price tag for NFL tarps is in the low-to-mid six-figure range, with some teams asking for over $1 million per sponsor tarp. In the MLB, tarping outfield bleachers has paid off as tarps are viewed frequently during a game and replays.
As more states legalize gambling, Nevada's stranglehold on gambling space is being challenged. Traditionally, Nevada, and particularly Las Vegas, has been the epicenter of legal gambling. Since 2018, when the legality of sports betting was upheld by the Supreme Court, only 13 states have entered the arena of legalized gambling, with varying levels of success. New Jersey has been a leader by allowing mobile betting within the state lines. According to the Attorney General of New Jersey, 80% of all sports bets were placed online rather than at retail properties. However, Nevada shouldn't worry as they thrive on the entertainment factor that many states can't replicate.
Notable Information From the Sports World:
Indian Premier League (Cricket): The Indian Premier League held its opening match on September 19th in Abu Dhabi. It comes as no surprise that viewership of the 13th edition of the IPL would be significant due to the Coronavirus, as no fans were permitted to attend the event. However, no one could have predicted that 200 million people would tune in to the opening match. For comparison, the average viewership for the NFL Super Bowl, America’s most popular TV event, is roughly 100 million. This is the highest ever viewership of any sporting event in any country.
NCAA Division I: The NCAA has decided to hold its Division I fall championships in the spring. This includes men's and women's soccer along with FCS football. The Division I Board of Directors also announced that tournament brackets will be limited to 75% of their usual total for these sports championships. This will not include the NCAA Division I men's and women's basketball tournament next spring.
NHL & NBA: Both commissioners have come out and said that it looks like both of these leagues will not be starting their seasons until the new year. For the NHL, there is concern about the closure of the U.S./Canada border because six of its teams play in Canada. Both leagues have plans to play a normal 82 game schedule next season.
DraftKings: Athletes Unlimited is adding DraftKings as a partner late in their inaugural softball season. The hope is that additions to the fan experience will create new ways to engage with the league. Softball is not the only sport under the Athletes Unlimited umbrella as the company will debut a volleyball league next spring. As part of the agreement, there will be a free-to-play option for fans to participate in for both leagues through the DraftKings Sportsbook.
Michael Jordan: Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin have formed a NASCAR team with Bubba Wallace as their driver. Jordan will be the only Black owner of a NASCAR team and the first since Wendell Scott, who owned a car in the 1960s and 1970s. This star-studded ownership group aims to use both Wallace’s and Jordan’s platforms to make the sport more inclusive.
Finally, Burger King's #StevenageChallenge activation is being run in FIFA 2020, one of the world's most popular video games. Burger King realized their logo would be included in the video game even if they sponsored a 4th division team in England. This activation resulted in Stevenage FC being the most used team in career mode and the team has sold out its actual jersey from the team store. Players who shared videos of themselves scoring goals on social media had the opportunity to win burgers or even jerseys. Burger King is accustomed to the spotlight and it continues to push the envelope with its brand activations. Burger King's Whopper Detour is another example of the company’s marketing ingenuity. Burger King encouraged its customers to go to its largest direct competitor, McDonald's, to receive coupons for its Whoppers, and surprisingly it worked. The article linked, written by the CMO, is fascinating and worth the read.