03/08/21: AKC discusses their plans following deal with ESPN


Medias First Morning Read


Monday March 8, 2021

After closing 2020 with a big new three-year deal with ESPN, the American Kennel Club is shoring up its content and partnership plans through the deal, including bringing the AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin, to ABC starting this past January. Overall, the slate includes: AKC Fastest Dogs USA; AKC National Championship; AKC Agility Premier Cup; AKC National Agility Championship; North America Diving Dog Premier Cup; and AKC Flyball National Championship. As the organization prepares for a (hopeful) post-pandemic operations strategy, Cynopsis asked Gina DiNardo, Head of AKC Productions and Executive Secretary of the AKC, and Ronald Furman, Broadcasting, Media, and Brand Sponsorship, about the road ahead.

DiNardo on the pandemic: The pandemic forced us to pivot our televised events strategy very quickly. The American Kennel Club (AKC)’s plan to expand our programming content was in its final development stages with ESPN as COVID-19 upended the industry. Sporting events of all kinds, including dog sports, were cancelled or postponed. So, in effect, it became a question of how fast could AKC develop dog sports programming for ESPN in the safest way possible, to fill the massive void of live sports. We were fortunate to have had a successful history with ESPN via previous events like Dog Day 2019, AKC Agility Premier Cup and Fastest Dogs USA, that had already proven that our content worked on their platform. Now as we head towards our AKC Agility Championship this month (on ESPN2), we have a solid formula.

Additionally, AKC, like many other programmers, pivoted to virtual content especially in the areas of new puppy/dog, health, training and welfare coinciding with the rapid increase of families adding dogs to their homes.

Furman on the needs in a media partner: First and foremost, we sought a partner that desired to be actively engaged, committed, and was supportive of the American Kennel Club and that would consider dog action sports as part of their overall programming strategy, not an occasional “one and done” event. It was also important that the partner had a deep and targeted digital strategy. We also needed someone who had a similar desire for audience growth. AKC has a very strong “female first” audience and we wanted a partner that would be invested in the expansion of our audience as well as theirs, so recognizing that value add was critical for us. We are already seeing the positive results. To date, AKC on ESPN programming has been successfully delivering on ESPN’s KPI’s and increasing female viewership significantly in our events on their networks.

And, of course we wanted the best network platform to showcase our annual event, The AKC National Championship, which is the largest dog event in North America and the culmination of the season of nationwide dog show events. This year’s show aired on ABC and the show had the seventh highest female composition of all ABC programs in the past year.

On what fans can expect from the deal with ESPN: Fans can expect new and exciting content through programming like Agility, Fastest Dogs (dogs racing against a clock for speed), Flyball (teams of dogs that compete in obstacles, retrieval and speed timing), Diving Dogs and more. The goal is to give ESPN viewers a new perspective of our sports and show them a variety of activities people enjoy doing with dogs that are fun, educational and that hopefully motivate them to get involved in sports with their own dogs. This crossover into ESPN sports news & information has already expanded into appearances on SportsCenter. For example, in this year’s coverage of the Fastest Dogs USA they compared the winning dog’s top speed to that of NFL players who average 24 miles per hour while the FDUSA winner of this year’s event hit 34 mph. Pretty Impressive.

On working with sponsors: With a dedicated audience of more than 10 million users across all of our platforms (AKC.tv, web platforms, newsletters, AKC on ESPN, etc.), the AKC offers a variety of options for marketing and sponsorship partners. AKC is the authority on all things dog, with content that reaches every aspect of the dog ecosystem including sports, health, welfare, education, training , expert advice and more. The agreement with a major sports brand like ESPN completes the AKC’s 360-degree platform with a linear component. The AKC provides direct contact with dog owners which includes deliverables that are quantifiable, multi -platform, can include IP and marks, be consumer-facing, easy to use, and we control our content, which is a benefit to our brand partners.

And most importantly that, potential partners and marketers should know that the American Kennel Club, like the sports leagues – NFL, NBA, MLB, etc., offers a passionate fan base and the multimedia assets to create strong marketing activations behind it: an OTT channel, a website, linear broadcast and cable, social and digital media platforms with avid followers, all based in an authentic experience that has been developed by the leading canine advocate for over 136 years.

DiNardo on the five-year vision: In the next five years, we are planning to create more robust content that will include an expanded slate of live events across AKC.tv and AKC on ESPN, enhanced lifestyle content that highlights the journeys of consumers and their dogs, and more training content that helps and educates our audience. We are excited about the growth prospects.


All-Star Weekend saw NBA Commissioner Adam Silver address his thoughts on next season to the media, where he stated that he thinks the 2021-22 season will look and play normal based on recent developments and numbers for COVID-19. “Maybe for the first time in the past year,” Silver stated in the virtual news conference, “I’m fairly optimistic that as we see fans returning to our arenas, as we see public health officials across the country begin to open up sporting events, theaters, restaurants, other forms of entertainment, I feel pretty good that we’re going to continue apace.”

In celebration of International Women’s Day, NHL Network’s Jamie Hersch, Lauren Gardner, Jackie Redmond and Kendall Coyne Schofield will co-host the fourth annual all-female production of NHL Network’s daily show NHL Now today at 4p. The program will feature women from across the sport of hockey providing analysis on the top NHL storylines, in-depth previews of the six games featured tonight, interaction with viewers via NHL Network’s social media platforms, and an interview with 2018 Olympic gold medalist and Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) player Alex Cavallini.

The 89th 24 Hours of Le Mans stalled this year’s race, which was set to run June 12-13. The Automobile Club de l’Ouest has now rescheduled the event for Aug. 21–22, hoping that the delay will allow spectators to attend the race. The dates of the other races and events to be held at the Le Mans Circuit remain unchanged at the present time. “Although it was a tough decision to make, it is the right one. Holding the 24 Hours of Le Mans behind closed doors for the second year running would be unthinkable,” said Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest. “We are therefore doing all we can to avoid that happening and to give competitors a clear view of the whole season. We are working very hard to put on a safe event, with all the necessary health precautions in place. This year’s race promises to be another thriller as the new Hypercar class makes its debut.”

The National Football League is reportedly close to a new broadcasting rights deals with Amazon, according to the Wall Street Journal, where a slate of Thursday Night games would run exclusively on its Prime Video platform and represent the league’s biggest move into streaming, with reports stating the deal could be worth as much as $1 billion, with the deal kicking in after the 2022 season, when Fox’s current pact for Thursday night football expires.

In only two weeks, the EBS team is producing the Esports Business Summit University: 2-day virtual conference focused on the business of collegiate esports. We’ll go inside topics such as sponsorships, scholarships, recruitment, funding, and so much more. Hear from the Activision Blizzard, the West Coast Conference, CSL Esports, EGF, Learfield IMG, Skillshot Media, WWSEF/NASEF, Mountain West Conference, BoomTV/AVGL, NIRSA, NACE, FACEIT, Nerd Street Gamers, Twitch and a keynote from former NFL Pro Bowler Ahman Green from Lakeland University Esports Program. It’s going to be an incredible learning opportunity and we hope you’ll join us. Don’t delay – register now!

World Rugby is pushing the Rugby World Cup 2021 until next year as a result of the pandemic. The event was slated to take place in New Zealand from Sept. 18-Oct. 16, noting that under current conditions, it was “just not possible to deliver the environment for all teams to be the best that they can be on the sport’s greatest stage.”

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The Clorox Company and the NBA cemented a multiyear agreement that makes Clorox the Official Cleaning Partner of the NBA and WNBA and allows for ongoing collaboration with Clorox in promoting health and safety during NBA and WNBA games and events. In addition, Clorox and the Jr. NBA developed a custom digital education series, teaching children and families how to properly follow the latest health and safety measures in accordance with best practices from the CDC.

The Kansas City Chiefs and GEHA announced that GEHA will become the exclusive naming rights partner for Arrowhead Stadium. Beginning with the 2021 NFL season, the home of the Chiefs will be GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. “We are extremely proud and excited to announce our naming rights agreement with GEHA. When we set out to find a partner for the field at Arrowhead, it was critical to identify a national leader that shares our core values, as well as a deep connection to the local community and respect for Chiefs Kingdom,” Chiefs President Mark Donovan said. “Our relationship with GEHA over the last few years has only served to reinforce the alignment between our two organizations and proven their strong, long-standing relationship with the local community. This expanded partnership will continue to build lasting health and wellness programs that support the team, GEHA and our community.”

The National Hockey League announced that Eastview Middle School Teacher Jeremy Spink has been named the 2020/21 NHL/NHLPA Most Valuable Teacher presented by SAP for the month of February. Spink was one of 20 Future Goals teachers from across North America who were vying for the title. He has won a personalized NHL club jersey and a $10,000 technology grant provided by SAP to help bring Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics concepts to life for students.


Bally’s Corporation signed on as an official sports betting operator of the NBA in a multi-year deal that will provide the casino and gambling operator with access to official league data, as well as rights to use official NBA marks and logos across its portfolio of online sports betting products. “Partnering with the NBA is an exceptional opportunity for Bally’s, adding to our ongoing momentum with professional sports leagues,” said George Papanier, the betting company’s president and chief executive. “Together with the NBA, we will unlock significant opportunities to provide a greater population of NBA fans with new, creative and engaging sports betting products and services.”

Iowa sportsbooks took in nearly $144 million in bets in February and took in more bets per day than in the state’s history, even as the state’s month-over-month handle fell from January’s surge, according to PlayIA. “Iowa remains perhaps the most compelling case study yet on the effects of in-person registration requirements,” said Jessica Welman, an analyst for PlayIA.com. “February is a short month with only one NFL game to bet on, the Super Bowl, so the relatively flat month-over-month results can be misleading on the surface. But another strong showing still places Iowa in a class of states that are either larger or have far more mature gaming markets. And that would not be possible under the old requirements.”

UFC announced a new partnership with Stake.com, the cryptocurrency casino and sportsbook. Under the terms of the agreement, Stake.com will become UFC’s first-ever “Official Betting Partner” in Latin America (excluding Brazil) and Asia, creating a new sponsorship category for the organization.


Allied Esports Entertainment received an unsolicited proposal from Bally’s Corporation to acquire all of the outstanding equity interests of the Company for a total consideration of $100 million. The Bally’s proposal would require the Company to terminate its previously announced agreement with Element Partners to sell all of the equity interests of Club Services, including the entities comprising the World Poker Tour.

FACEIT locked in a deal with HyperX to serve as the first sponsor of its CS:GO, League of Legends, and VALORANT collegiate leagues. The pair will host and produce the HyperX Collegiate All Stars tournament to showcase collegiate talent across all three leagues.

Esports Entertainment entered a sponsorship deal with Kraft Sports and Entertainment, and will now provide online gambling services with a specific focus on esports, and include teams such as the New England Patriots and New England Revolution. Esports Entertainment will be able to act as the official sponsor and provider of the official esports tournaments associated with the league.


The NFL added Maia Chaka to the NFL roster of game officials for the 2021 season, marking the first time a Black woman has been added to the league’s officiating staff. Maia Chaka was added to the NFL roster of game officials for the 2021 season. “I am honored to be selected as an NFL official,” Chaka said. “But this moment is bigger than a personal accomplishment. It is an accomplishment for all women, my community, and my culture.”


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