03/14/22: Monumental’s McAuley talks growth

Medias First Morning Read
Monday March 14, 2022

As we emerge from two years of pandemic disruption, Washington DC has a HUB that is driving change throughout the industry, serving as a hotspot for disruption, change and social advocacy with Monumental Sports – owner of five teams, multiple venues, and a streaming network – in the middle of the paradigm shift. As we approach the WNBA season, Alycen McAuley, Senior Vice President, Team Services at Monumental Sports & Entertainment answered some questions for Cynopsis about the Washington Mystics and Capital City Go-Go along with lessons learned in recent years.

McAuley on lessons learned: Our ownership group – led by Ted Leonsis – are leading pioneers in technology and consistently challenge us to think “digital first.” So, when fans were unable to attend games in person, our teams looked to innovative digital-based solutions to continue to connect fans to our team and players. Those programs connected fans to not only the game on the court, but activities within and in support of our communities. And we found our fans were even more engaged with our Team and our players thanks to these programs. We also saw that our digital experiences introduced new fans to our Team and our players. So now building our fan experience with both in-person and digital experiences, as well as both around the court and beyond. We’re thinking very differently about what it means to be a ‘Member’, what it means to be a fan and what kinds of things we can do to bring fans closer to the team that they love. We think this hybrid, ‘wrap-around’ approach helps us grow our game and fandom.

On how The Mystics grow as leaders: Over our 25 years, the Mystics have consistently showcased leadership and moved many to action on many of these issues – which is the inspiration behind our “District of Change” campaign. This season, we continue to expand our District of Change efforts, focused on issues of gender equality, racial equality, LGBTQ+ equality and community equality. Many of our programs from 2021 are returning as expanded efforts in 2022. Our Assist DC program, benefiting College Track Ward 8 returns, hoping to eclipse our fundraising total from 2021. Our enormously successful District of Change Artist Collection t-shirt program returns in 2022, featuring artists from 202Creates this season and offering more shirts including our just-introduced March Women’s Herstory Month shirt. Our commitment to reducing gun violence in our communities continues with our support of the Wear Orange movement in June. We’ll continue our efforts to champion for an inclusive society and defend the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly in light of recent developments that threaten those rights.

On the growth of The Go-Go identity: Named for the iconic – and now official – music of Washington D.C., the Capital City Go-Go look to celebrate the music that has shaped our city. This season we partnered with Side By Side Band, a go-go band comprised entirely of our City’s finest Metropolitan Police officers who use go-go music to connect with the community, particularly the youth. Throughout the season, Side By Side played at Capital City Go-Go games as our house hand. We also partnered MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) to showcase archival go-go band posters produced by the Globe, a Baltimore-based letterpress print shop that defined the iconic go-go poster style. We’ve partnered with DC Public Library to celebrate the newly renovated Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library’s Go-Go Archive now on display, inviting our players, staff and our fans to view the exhibit and hear from its curators. We’ve also worked with Teach The Beat, a program that teaches students in DC the rich history of go-go music, inviting the students and their families to our games.

On the use of streaming; The power of Monumental Sports Network (MSN) for the Mystics brand can’t be understated. Fans in Washington D.C. are extremely digitally-savvy, and that is especially true for our Mystics fans. WNBA fans – and women’s sports fans in general – have long turned to digital media to follow their teams and they became early adopters of streaming services that would carry games. Our over-the-top (OTT) media platform has provided us with rich data on our fans – and we know they engage with the content longer (aggregate minutes viewed), are more likely to engage with other programming and activations and exert purchasing power at exponentially higher rates. That makes our brand even more appealing to sponsors and partners interested in reaching those incredible fans.

On how the Mystics brand will lead in a year of women’s sports growth: The recent announcement from the WNBA around the single-largest capital raise in women’s sports history – 75MM – not only helps accelerate our growth but also clearly demonstrates the market’s belief in the value of the product and the investment upside of our League. Women’s sports – and the WNBA specifically – represent one of the biggest growth opportunities in sports today. Ratings are up, social followers are growing exponentially, awareness around our athletes is expanding, blue-chip brands are leveraging our sport to connect with their target consumers in record numbers, our jerseys are selling at major retailers around the country, and our popularity in mainstream culture is growing – in-demand apparel like our signature W Orange Hoodie or the Mystics RISE jersey by Nike are a cultural phenomenon.

PROGRAMMING

Joe Buck is reportedly the next big name to be changing channels, with multiple reports stating that he will join long-time broadcast partner Troy Aikman at ESPN to call Monday Night Football next season. According to the New York Post, Buck still had one year and $11 million remaining on his contract with FOX, but was allowed to explore other options with his new deal spanning five years. In exchange for letting out of his deal early, FOX will now receive the right to pick one Big Ten football game before ESPN in the 2022 season, per the report.

Meanwhile, Kirk Herbstreit officially agreed to a deal to become Amazon’s game analyst for its Thursday Night Football coverage, according to the New York Post. Herbstreit will, however, continue to work with ESPN as its top college football analyst and will remain with College GameDay.

The NCAA revealed its lineup of teams for this year’s tournament, with Gonzaga, Arizona, Kansas and Baylor each grabbing the top seeds for their regions. Play begins with early round games tomorrow and concludes with championship game on April 4. First Four action kicks off the slate, with matchups that will include Rutgers/Notre Dame, Wright State/Bryant; Indiana/Wyoming; and Texas Southern/Texas A&M-CC.

The Women’s tournament field is led by top seeds North Carolina State, South Carolina, Louisville, and Stanford. ESPN announced that the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship game is locked in to run in primetime on the channel on April 3 at 8p, preceded by a one-hour NCAA Women’s Championship Special Presented by Capital One at 7p. “The Division I Women’s Basketball Championship continues to grow in popularity, and we are excited to see what a move to primetime can do for viewership of our championship game,” said Nina King, athletics director at Duke and chair of the Women’s Basketball Committee. “This is a unique opportunity this year and we look forward to sharing our sport with more viewers across the country and shining an even brighter spotlight on the amazing student-athletes competing for the national championship.”

Continuing the theme, the HBCU All-Star Game rosters will be announced live on CBS Sports HQ today at 3p. The show will reveal the rosters highlighted by 24 of the country’s top HBCU men’s basketball players. Travis L. Williams, founder of HBCU All-Stars LLC, and Cy Alexander, longtime HBCU basketball coach, will be live in studio to discuss the selection process and preview the game with CBS Sports HQ host Amanda Guerra. CBS Sports analyst Avery Johnson will also provide insight and commentary.

NBC’s much-discussed deal with MLB will see a new package of Sunday games, with start times as early as 11:30a, according to The Wall Street Journal. The deal would see an 18-game package of games that will run on Peacock’s premium tier and be exclusive. With the package will being finalized, NBC Sports would produce the pre- and post-game shows, as well as the games.

2022 SPORTS MEDIA AWARDS
The Navigator Award goes to…

Molly Solomon, Executive Producer & President, NBC Olympics Production; Executive Producer, Golf Channel

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SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

Speaking of baseball, more details from the new CBA continue to emerge, including news that – the first time – baseball will have sponsorship logos on its uniforms. The league would then join the NBA and NHL in shifting to using patches to boost revenues.

Great Clips, serving as the Official Hair Salon of the NCAA, unveiled a social media sweepstakes for fans to enjoy March Madness® in person by winning a trip and tickets to the Men’s or Women’s Final Fours, which includes the semifinal and national championship games. Great Clips will air new national television commercials that feature legendary announcer Kevin Harlan during March Madness broadcasts on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV throughout the tournament, including the Final Four semifinal and championship game on TBS. The brand also is featuring March Madness-themed creative within its salons across the U.S. and in digital ads in a robust March Madness Live media package.

DIGITAL, DATA & TECH

STN Video announced a multi-year extension of its video content distribution partnership with the National Hockey League for US publishers. New this NHL season is the Daily Game Roundup – a daily video that features the biggest storylines and highlights from all NHL games in action that day. “STN Video’s reach of over 1900 publishers enables the NHL to reach both current and new hockey fans wherever they consume their sports and hockey news,” said Stephen McArdle, NHL Senior Executive Vice President, Digital Media and Strategic Planning. “We’re looking forward to working with STN to continue growing the viewership of the NHL together.”

ESPORTS

OneTeam Partners struck a deal with League of Legends Championship Series Player Association to “assist the LCSPA in becoming a sustainable and independent player organization and will help set the LCSPA on the path to unionization” by overseeing and commercializing group rights for North American pro and academy players. We feel strongly that now is the right time to act on behalf of our membership to protect their Group Rights in the same manner that the rights of the NFL, MLB, NBA, and all other major North American athletes are protected,” the org said in the announcement. “This program and partnership will establish a passive revenue stream for players as well as provide a sustainable and independent operating budget for the Players Association (PA) to continue to grow the scope of its work on behalf of players.”

INDUSTRY & ROSTER MOVES

Kelah Raymond joined Buzzer, the new mobile platform delivering short-form access to the top moments in live sports, as Head of People & Talent. In her role, Raymond will oversee people and talent operations, driving people strategy, talent and performance management, organizational design, leadership and talent development, employee experience and benefits analysis.

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ON THIS DAY in
1976: Jockey Bill Shoemaker wins his 7,000th race.

IN THE KNOW
In which movie were we introduced to fictional wrestler Captain Insano (played by Paul Wight)? (Email cpursell@cynopsis.com with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city).

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question
What is the name of the fight song used by the US Naval Academy? Answer: Anchors Aweigh. Kudos: Michael Ritz-Lenox Advisors/NY; Michael Dittelman-Dedicated Sports Marketing/NY; Matt Sautter-WideOrbit/Harrisburg; C.J. Bottitta-Big Picture Productions/Apex Daniel Rioux-PUSH 22/Bingham Farms; Chris Eron-CBS Television Stations – Paramount/Riverside; Lisa Fikeys-NissanUnited/Chicago; Rosemary Cunningam-Weigel Broadcasting/Chicago; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Kristin Staskowski-Spectrum Reach/Birmingham; David Hauptman/Denver; David Westberg-SAG*AFTRA Credit Union/Burbank; Larry Hutchings/San Luis Obispo; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA

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