Monday, April 30th, 2012

Cynopsis: Sports

Good morning. It’s Monday, April 30, 2012, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

Last week, Cynopsis Sports honored Tony Ponturo, co-founder of the Kirmser Ponturo Group with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Ponturo, of course, has been a leader in the business of sports and entertainment for more than 30 years, first in the advertising world, then as VP of Global Media, Sports and Entertainment at Anheuser-Busch, turning A-B into the quintessential Super Bowl commercial brand. Ponturo engineered official beer sponsorships with Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer and NASCAR, managing more than $700 million annually in broadcast and cable buys. Now, he has set his sights on Broadway, producing famed shows such as Memphis and Hair, as well as sports-driven tales such as Lombardi and Magic/Bird.

Cynopsis Sports spoke with Ponturo after the Summit to reflect on the state of sports advertising.

Ponturo on the unique partnership between sponsors and sports: I think it’s become very numbers oriented and one of the things I feel is very important in an industry I grew up in is that you value the word partnership in its truest sense and that meant a give and take and sometimes doing something that was maybe to the advantage of your team or league, but you would know you would get it back somewhere down the line. I just think it’s important to keep the human element and the partnership involved I the equation and also, particularly in companies where the CFO has gotten very involved in the marketing process, while accountability is very important, you have to allow human instinct to play out a little bit and empower the people that you are paying to do the work. They are living in the space.

On corporate culture: I realized very quickly in my career that there was clear strategy from the top which was ‘we want to own the consumer and make sure we are getting our message out there in front of them in a dominant way.’ In 1982, Miller and A-B were both at 22 market share, when I left A-B, Miller was still at 22 (or maybe 21/20) and AB was just short of 50. So a lot of people don’t realize that it was really an even playing field and then us using sports to sell our product became the key ingredient to help catapult AB to double its market share and adding that distance between the competition. Our CEO gave us a clear strategy to go out, take our resources, leverage them, and have a one-stop shop operation that can be the voice of the company and then go out and conquer and win over the hearts and minds of the beer consumer. So you felt that it was something special to be part of.

On how sports translates to Broadway: There is so much great drama that can come through every day at a sports event and these athletes put it all on the line. So many of us as fans spend so much time and energy watching and keeping up with sports that there has to be an emotional connection, whether its loyalty to the team, or connecting to a player or connecting to the drama on the field. When we first went to Roger Goodell, we said to him you have the Vince Lombardi Trophy, but there are younger generations that don’t know what this man did and how he accomplished it and how it wasn’t an overnight success. We were coming out of the ’08 financial crash, and some people were looking for shortcuts and we thought that the stories of hard work and not taking short cuts, and its team work were stories too good not to tell.

On the Air

Well-known names and plenty of trades spiced up an NFL Draft and both ESPN and NFL Network saw spikes as a result. Thursday’s coverage of the first round delivered ESPN’s second highest rated and second most-viewed draft ever with ratings up 16% over last year. The telecast averaged 6,661,000 viewers with a 5.1 household coverage rating based on fast nationals, according to Nielsen. The opening day in 2011 drew a 2.8 score. The top five metered markets included: Cleveland (10.7 rating), Birmingham, Ala., (10.5), Dayton, Ohio (8.3), Columbus, Ohio (7.3) and Buffalo, N.Y. (7.3). Online, NFL content on ESPN digital platforms generated an average minute audience of 84,000 yesterday, up 11% compared to the same day last year.

Around the dial on NFL Network, the channel’s first round programming of the Draft drew a record average of 1.4 million viewers, toppling last year’s ratings record by 40%. Online, the NFL’s digital media platforms-including, NFL Mobile Only From Verizon and other NFL mobile products set a record with its first-round draft coverage as unique visitors jumped 53% compared to last year. Overall, the combined television platforms posted a record combined average rating of 5.28 with 8.1 million viewers.

On to the NHL Playoffs. With 16 overtime games and 32 one-goal games, the Conference Quarterfinals of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs officially delivered record-setting viewership for the NBC Sports outlets, according to fast national data released by Nielsen.  Overall the first round averaged 929,000 viewers across NBC, NBC Sports Network and CNBC. NBC Sports Network delivered an average of 744,000, up 16% from last year (642,000). NBC wrapped up with an average of 2.57 million viewers for six broadcasts, up 39% compared to last year. Thursday’s Senators/Rangers game was watched by 984,000 viewers on the NBC Sports Network, up 6% vs. last year’s comparable game (926,000, Bos-Was, Game 7). The Devils/Panthers faceoff began on NHL Network and then was simulcast on NBC Sports Network and averaged 867,000 viewers for the portions of the game that aired on NBC Sports Network.

Thursday’s pair of sevens also handed MSG Network with ratings that haven’t been seen for either the Rangers or the Devils on MSG or MSG+ in more than a decade. The Rangers on MSG delivered a 5.74 Nielsen household rating  with 424,000 households, to score as the highest-rated Rangers game since Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on June 14, 1994. The Devils victory on MSG+ drew a 1.70 household rating and 126,000 households, which ranks as the highest rating a Devils telecast has scored since Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals on May 7, 2001.

Up north, CBC’S Hockey Night in Canada saw new audience peaks with its coverage of the 2011-12 NHL regular season. The channel reports that the season delivered an average audience of more than 2 million viewers per game, marking the highest average for the games since metered measurement began in 1989-90. On the digital front, averaged 1.15 million unique visitors per month during the 2011-12 NHL regular season, for an increase of 17% over last year.

Jack Nicklaus’ famed run in the 1962 U.S. Open will be featured in a documentary dubbed Jack’s First Major, according to the AP. The documentary will serve as the first USGA film to be shown on network television, where it will be broadcast by NBC Sports on June 17 ahead of final-round coverage of the U.S. Open.

With the playoffs finally on deck, TNT reports that the 2011-12 NBA regular season on the channel officially scored as the highest-rated and most-viewed in the network’s 28-year history with the league. The NBA on TNT averaged a 1.7 U.S. HH rating this season, up 6% vs. last year with nearly 2.5 million viewers, up 4%. The network also generated its fifth straight year of growth among viewers and households.

The cloudy realignment picture is starting to come into focus with multiple reports stating that the University of Texas San-Antonio is about to join Conference USA pending approval from the University of Texas System Board of Regents on Wednesday. reports that the school is set to join North Texas, Florida International and Louisiana Tech for the 2013 season. Meanwhile, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that Utah State and San Jose State are wrapping up negotiations to join the Mountain West Conference. If these reports are all correct, the WAC will be down to only two incumbent football teams, New Mexico St. and Idaho.

Comcast SportsNet reports that Sixers games this season averaged a 2.4 household rating to score as the highest rated season for the franchise since 2004-05. Sixers pre and postgame programs also delivered upticks for the channel, with Sixers Pregame Live averaging a .5 HH rating and up 66% over the previous season. Sixers Postgame Live averaged a 1.3 HH, up 63%.



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Sponsorship & Promotion

For the fourth straight year, NASCAR and Nationwide Insurance will bring the Dash 4 Cash bonus program back for NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers and fans alike. The promotion rewards the highest-finishing eligible driver in four designated races with a $100,000 bonus above and beyond the race purse. Meanwhile, Fans also can participate via a sweepstakes that culminates with one lucky fan also winning $100,000.

Sperry Top-Sider has signed on to serve as chief sponsor of U.S. Sailing Team in four-year deal that will span two Olympics. Sperry will also continue its role as footwear sponsor for the team.

Digital Fields

For the first time, all ESPN and ESPN2 NBA Playoff games as well as The Finals on ABC will be made available for simulcast on the company’s digital platforms. The company announced that every ESPN and ESPN2 postseason NBA game will be available live on their computers, smartphones or tablets via WatchESPN. Meanwhile, fans will also have access to special simulcasts of The Finals on ABC via ESPN3.

The NBA is pumping up its social game for the 2012 playoffs by launching official league Pinterrest and Tumblr accounts, according to Mashable. The league has also invited fans around the world to tweet photos of the baskets where they shoot hoops. The league’s Tumblr page will be mainly focused on pictures from recent pro basketball history, while the Pinterest profile will be devoted to two strategies, ecommerce and “quirky characters.”

The Main Event

NBA Playoffs, Knicks/Heat on TNT at 7p.

ON THIS DAY in 1993: Tennis star Monica Seles is stabbed during a match.

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: What venue served as the original NFL home of the Colts? Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. Kudos: Peter King Hunsinger-Golf Digest & Golf World/NY; Michael A. Neuman-Scout Sports and Entertainment/NY; Gail Rodriguez-Tennis Channel/NY; Shawn Gerchicoff-Turner Sports/Atlanta; Rick Rosenfelt-New York Jets/Florham Park; Tony Ferranti-MMSI/Warwick; Rich Kopilnick-Broadcasting & Programming Consultant/Montclair; Matt Sautter-OpenTV/Golden; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; Bob WareKPSP Local 2/Thousand Palms.

In The Know: Who was the MVP of the 2009 World Series? (Email with your answer and be sure to include your name, company, city and time zone. Unofficial rules: Only the second four correct answers from each time zone will be mentioned; and once you’ve been mentioned in any of the Cynopsis editions, you can’t be mentioned again that calendar week.)

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | Sports

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