02/26/18: MLS is unveiling new initiatives as the league prepares for its new season

Good morning. It’s Monday February 26, 2018 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.


Saturday sees the 2018 MLS season kick off as the Toronto FC/Columbus Crew SC take the field. In addition to a TV lineup that include 33 games on FOX Sports, 28 on ESPN and 14 on Univision this season, the league unveiled a slate of new initiatives with an eye to continue its audience growth. On one front, MLS unveiled the launch of its 2018 brand campaign, “Our Soccer,” designed to tell the story of the sports league. Meanwhile, the league also detailed plans for the eMLS Cup, the org’s first major foray into esports, with players representing 19 MLS clubs taking part at PAX East from April 5-8.
Cynopsis asked MLS execs David Bruce, VP, Brand and Integrated Marketing, MLS, and James Ruth, Senior Director, Properties and Events, MLS, about the initiatives.
Bruce on 2018 goals: MLS is coming off its most successful season to-date. We saw record-breaking attendance and consumption, two new expansion teams in Atlanta and Minnesota, an influx of dynamic talent, and further increases in social and digital engagement. Entering season 23, which begins on Saturday, with our 23rd club, LAFC, joining this year, we’re growing at an explosive rate. Our supporters have more ways than ever to consume club and league content, we have two new stadiums opening in LA and Washington D.C., and more stars in the prime of their career are making MLS their “League of Choice.”
On the new campaign: We wanted to showcase the unique MLS experience. What sets it apart from soccer elsewhere and other sports across the U.S. and Canada. We’ve been working with a new agency, Cornerstone/The FADER. They are strong in the culture space and we wanted to go beyond the norm. We connected right away. They understood, and were able to tell the story we wanted to tell. ‘Our Soccer’ showcases our version of the global game — the rituals and traditions built here in North America. We are proud of the distinct environment and supporter culture, songs and chants and tifo that make up the MLS movement. We’re really proud of how the campaign turned out.
On the World Cup: The League will have a record number of players participating in Russia. We’re all soccer fans here. We’re excited for the World Cup and the additional eyeballs on the beautiful game.
Ruth on the eMLS Cup: MLS’s push is two-fold. Our first aim is to create a platform that speaks to our significant existing fan base of gamers. The other is to get MLS in front of a legion of gamers who are touching our sport through FIFA 18. That includes gamers here in the U.S. and Canada and around the world since FIFA is one of the world’s most popular games. We are looking forward to our first major eMLS event, the inaugural eMLS Cup at PAX East from April 5 – 8.
On club involvement: There are two core options for clubs. The first is to hold open tournaments, inviting local gamers to compete to play for the club in eMLS. This presents an impactful way for Clubs to engage fans, and give them unique experiences. The Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution started their tournament series this past weekend. The second is the club selects an established gamer. An example of that is what NYCFC did with Chris Holly or what the New York Red Bulls did signing Mike LaBelle. These options provide Clubs flexibility in how they build a presence in gaming.
On incorporating sponsors: We’re fortunate to have 23 blue chip brands who partner with MLS. We’re still finalizing what the partner landscape is going to look like for eMLS, but there will be commercial elements to this league and creative ways to get involved. We’re excited to see how partners can help us elevate the experience for our gaming fans and our Club gamers.


With the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in the books and even before final numbers are tallied, NBCUniversal has already laid claim to scoring its Best February ever, anchored by both the Olympics and the Super Bowl. The company reports that, since Super Bowl Sunday, more than 229 million Americans tuned into the networks of NBCUniversal. Although Olympics broadcast numbers were off-pace overall from four years ago, the PyeongChang Olympics delivered a TAD average of 20.6 million primetime viewers to the company, while NBCSN notched its most-watched month ever with a Total Day viewership average of 743,000 viewers through Feb. 22. “We are successful against every important measurement,” said Mark Lazarus, Chairman, NBC Broadcasting and Sports, who noted that this will mark the fourth straight Olympics in which the company earned a profit. “Viewers came in droves across all dayparts and platforms, our advertisers are all delivered, and our affiliate and distribution partners are extremely happy.”
Surprise reports out of Germany are claiming that FIFA is reconsidering its decision to host the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and is considering moving the event to countries that include the US and England. German news outlet Focus cites Saudi sports minister Turki Al-Sheikh for the news. That said, FIFA president Gianni Infantino recently denied that FIFA was reconsidering the location of the 2022 tournament.
Rewinding viewership numbers for the Daytona 500, FOX Sports reports a boost in Nielsen’s out-of-home viewing data so that the race now shows an average of 9,781,000 viewers across all platforms, peaking at more than 11.5 million viewers with more than 18.1 million viewers watching all or part of the Great American Race. Out-of-home data inclusion provided a 7.4% lift in the coveted 18-34 demo, the highest percentage increase of any demo.
The NHL’s Trade Deadline Day today will see ESPN feature daylong, in-depth coverage that includes a simulcast of Canadian network TSN’s broadcast event TradeCentre. ESPN2 will simulcast the show from 2-4p, providing all the breaking news during the key final hours of the 3p trade deadline. Meanwhike, ESPN3 will simulcast TradeCentre all day from 8a-6p.
Speaking of hockey, the gold medal winning US Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team will be honored at the 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series between the Capitals and Maple Leafs at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Saturday. The second intermission salute to all 23 members of the team will be presented by Dunkin’ Donuts.
2018 Cable Hall of Fame Celebration
Presented by The Cable Center
April 4, 2017 at the Ziegfeld Ballroom, NYC
2018 Honorees
“Breaking Bad,” Vince Gilligan creator, AMC
Nomi Bergman , Senior Executive, Advance/Newhouse
John Bickham , President and COO Charter Communications
Balan Nair , CEO, Liberty Latin America
Richard Plepler , Chairman & CEO, HBO
Neil Smit , Vice Chairman, Comcast Corporation



The Colonial Athletic Association announced that Jersey Mike’s Subs will serve as the Presenting Sponsor of the 2018 CAA Men’s Basketball Championship. As presenting sponsor, the league will provide Jersey Mike’s with prominent branding inside the North Charleston Coliseum, which will be hosting the event.  Also included will be brand integration into the CAA’s digital and social media platforms covering the games and related events. The agreement was secured by the CAA’s multi-media rights partner Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment.
Renault Sport Formula One Team is reportedly partnering with LaLiga for a cross-platform sports partnership that will see Spain’s top division football league become an Official Football League Partner of the Renault F1 Team. The LaLiga logo will be visible on the team’s newest car as well as on the overalls of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz.
DC Solar will become the title sponsor of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s September NASCAR Xfinity Series race for 2018. The DC Solar 300 will take place at LVMS on Sept. 15, and is the third of four consecutive days of racing at the motorsports facility.
Elsewhere, Eastman Performance Films, LLC, a subsidiary of Eastman Chemical Company signed on to sponsor Hendrick Motorsports as a primary sponsor of driver Alex Bowman and the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team in the premier NASCAR Cup Series through 2020. Eastman will be a primary sponsor of Bowman for one race in 2018 and two races each season in 2019 and 2020.


Yahoo Sports’ explosive report into bank records and other expense reports that are part of a federal probe into college basketball made waves across the industry, as the story featured documents obtained in discovery during the investigation linking a slew of current and past NCAA players to potential benefits that would be violations of NCAA rules, including cash, entertainment and travel expenses from former NBA agent Andy Miller and his agency ASM Sports. NCAA President Mark Emmert responded, noting that “The allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America. Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports. They are an affront to all those who play by the rules. Following the Southern District of New York’s indictments last year, the NCAA Board of Governors and I formed the independent Commission on College Basketball, chaired by Condoleezza Rice, to provide recommendations on how to clean up the sport. With these latest allegations, it’s clear this work is more important now than ever.”
US intelligence officials told the Washington Post that Russia’s GRU agency compromised as many as 300 Olympics-related PCs, hacked South Korean routers in January and launched new malware on Feb. 9, the day the Olympics began. In addition, according to the report, the organization tried to make it look like North Korea was responsible by using North Korean internet addresses and “other tactics.”
Sports Illustrated launched a new podcast titled Holdat and hosted by former NBA stars/teammates and friends Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson. The show will “look at basketball from a player’s perspective, taking listeners behind the scenes in an entirely fresh way” with the first episode about the pair at this year’s All–Star Weekend.
Whistle Sports and Dude Perfect renewed vows, locking in an extension of their long-standing partnership. The deal will see Whistle Sports and Dude Perfect “combine their power in entertainment, storytelling, competitions and camaraderie and bring those stories to longer form content.”


IEM announced that Vodafone would serve as a premium partner of IEM World Championship Katowice, running March 2-4. “We’ve seen esports grow from a niche gaming activity to the world’s most popular sport of this generation, and we strongly believe that the next step to grow further, is technological advancement.” said Ralf Reichert, CEO at ESL. “This partnership enables ESL to deliver better events, better experience for fans, and better facilities for the players – and it’s just the beginning. We’re incredibly excited that Vodafone are partnering with us for the event in Katowice.”
Meanwhile, the $500,000 Intel Extreme Masters World Championship has its voices lined up as group play readies for launch. The commentary for those will be provided by Henry “HenryG” Greer and Matt “Sadokist” Trivett, Jason “moses” O’Toole and Lauren “Pansy” Scott (both stream A) as well as Harry “JustHarry” Russell with Hugo Byron and Alex “Snodz” Byfield with Jack “Jacky” Peters (both stream B). Meanwhile, Alex “Machine” Richardson will host, beside Janko “Ynk” Paunovic, Chad “Spunj” Burchill and Adam “friberg” Friberg.
Just ahead of winning the Intel Challenge Katowice 2018 over the weekend, Team Dignitas’ women’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team resigned with Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment. Team Dignitas’ squad includes Team Captain and AWPer Emmalee “EMUHLEET” Garrido; entry fraggers Amanda “rain” Smith and Mounira “Goosebreeder” Dobie; lurker Carolyn “artStar”  Noquez and Kiara “Milk” Makua.


Texas Tech/West Virginia on ESPN2 at 9p.


**Early Bird Rates Expire on Wednesday**
Wednesday, March 7th | 4:45pm – 8pm | SVA Theatre, NYC
The festival will assemble business-focused panels and award-winning screenings in all aspects of this emerging market. Participating companies include Facebook, Under Armour, Volvo Trucks, Lyft, Subaru, PGA Tour, The Dodo, NBCUniversal, ATTN:, Time Inc., Viacom Velocity and CrowdTangle. Register your team to attend before February 28th to save $100/ticket.
ON THIS DAY in 1935: Babe Ruth is sold from the New York Yankees to the Boston Braves. 
In the Know: Which school has the best winning percentage in the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Outside of basketball, Wilt Chamberlain is enshrined in what other sport’s Hall of Fame?  Answer: Volleyball. Kudos: Aymon DeMauro-Discovery Communications/NY; Matt Meachem-Gracenote, Inc./NY; Marc Goldstein-Media Solutions/NY; Art Salisch-Hearst Television/NY; Michael Narracci-NESN/ Watertown; Rick Rosenfelt-New York Red Bulls/Harrison; Paul Brewer-TV Talent Agents, Inc./North Augusta; John Langermann-WINK-TV/WXCW-TV/Fort Myers; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Tony Wilkins-KFXA-KGAN/Cedar Rapids; Mark Stulberger-Stully’s Broadcasting School/Houston; Greg Moloznik-GLM Media/Scottsdale; Tony Reyes-Walt Disney Imagineering/Glendale; Larry Hutchings/Nipomo; Greg Dudsic/Venice; Rick Hassen-FX Networks/LA


Later – Chris
Roberta Caploe
Diane K Schwartz
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JOB OPENINGSALES DIRECTOR/Seedbox/Europe: Sell the co. brdcst service to cable, satellite and telco operators across all of Europe, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. 10+ yrs relevant sales exp selling sales to cable and satellite operators in Europe. Able to speak mult languages. Full info/apply HERE (3/3)

JOB OPENING: SR ANALYST/MSG Networks/NYC: Assist insights dept w/all aspects of quant & qual rsrch analysis incl maintenance of large data sets, data prep & analysis of TV & digital viewership trends. 2+ yrs mkt rsrch exp pref’d. Strong knwldg of Nielsen data & some exp w/digital metrics. Full info HERE (3/3)


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