03/30/20: Sports Innovation Lab examines the return of sport

 

 

Monday March 30, 2020

Please note, starting this week, Cynopsis Sports will temporarily by cutting back to three issues a week while the industry waits out the pandemic. Thanks for your support and be well!

Olympic champion Angela Ruggiero is looking to research to drive the future of sports, leveraging her company, Sports Innovation Lab with a mission to “clients on the technological possibilities for their brand and how to ultimately drive value to the end consumer: the Fluid Fan. Amid the sports shutdown, her team, led by President/co-founder Josh Walker, formerly of Forrester, has been collecting a range of data analysis and insight development into issues that matter in sport. Cynopsis Sports asked Walker about the scene and what we can expect in upcoming months.

Walker on Sports Innovation Lab: We are working hard to gather the data that will provide industry leaders the best visibility into how they could and should respond to the current situation. We believe the lights will go on again soon and the industry will find it will need to move quickly. Most importantly, leaders will need to think and operate differently. This blackout delivered urgency to an industry that was reluctant to invest in technology and technology skills. That has all changed.

On challenges: Like everyone, we are working to keep our families and friends safe. Certainly, that goal requires a high level of compassion and planning for an uncertain future. It’s a challenge to balance your work week and deliver consistent communication to your team and clients when we’re getting new information every day. We struggle like everyone else does when it comes to finding a source of truth. Fortunately, we’re pretty good at collecting and analyzing data for emerging trends. We also have strong relationships with a number of industry leaders who are making these critical decisions. From that perspective, I trust we have a good finger on how global sports is thinking at the moment.

On keeping the lights on: Unfortunately, there are very few options if these groups didn’t have contingency plans in place or carve outs in their media rights deals. We are recommending staying close to fans with social media and empowering athletes to leverage team, league, and brand assets to produce more professional social media. We are also recommending that partners spend time with each other talking about the future. That’s not a revenue generating exercise, it’s a relationship building exercise that lays the foundation moving quickly in the near future.

On expectations when play resumes: There are many people who will make knee-jerk decisions to cut costs and go into lockdown mode. That’s one approach. There are others who will work with their customers, teams, and partners to come up with creative solutions to this challenge. That is easier said than done, but the leaders I respect most share the belief that sports will come roaring back. Our recommendation is to use this time productively to not only manage the crisis but set up teams who can plan for what’s about to happen when the industry is open for business again.

On five-year goals: We will continue to take our role as sports technology experts and connectors in the industry very seriously and expand our network of industry leaders. That work will undoubtedly lead to us doing more strategy and data research in adjacent industries like media and entertainment. I expect Sports Innovation Lab will be known for defining what future fans, what we call Fluid Fans, will want from live entertainment. I believe our research and data will also help technology vendors navigate the convergence of live sports, media, and entertainment.

PROGRAMMING

MLB locked in an agreement with its Players Association setting the stage for when baseball returns, with a plan to address salary and service-time issues amid the postponement to the start of the regular season. Both sides agreed that the 2020 season will not begin until: there are no bans on mass gatherings that would limit the ability to play in front of fans; there are no travel restrictions throughout the US and Canada; and medical experts determine that there would be no health risks for players, staff or fans, although the commissioners and union can still revisit the idea of playing in empty stadiums. “Players want to play,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark told USA TODAY Sports. “That’s what we do. Being able to get back on the field and being able to play, even if that means their fans are watching at home. Being able to play for their fans is something they’ve all expressed a desire and an interest to do, and to do so as soon as possible.”

The International Olympic Committee looking to lock in a July-August 2021 timeframe for the rescheduled summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, according to officials, speaking to Japanese newspaper Yomiuri. According to the piece, the IOC is looking to lock in a new schedule within a month, with the Games needing to fit between tennis’ Wimbledon and the US Open.

Meanwhile, networks continue to lineup NFL games to fill empty timeslots. FOX Sports announced the return of the NFL on FOX with a slate of its Greatest NFL Games, carriedSundays, Thursdays and Fridays across FOX, FS1 and FOX Deportes through the month of April. “We are pleased to join forces with the NFL to showcase these unforgettable games to our viewers, while supporting Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund,” said FOX Sports President, National Networks, Mark Silverman. “We hope these classic games provide entertainment and a much-needed respite during these unprecedent times.”

Around the dial, ESPN is partnering with the NFL to run weekly Monday Night Football Classics starting nothing at 8p, re-airing “iconic” Monday Night Football games from the past 15 years for the next five weeks, March 30-April 27. Games will also include inventory to support COVID-19 relief-focused organizations. An hour of Peyton’s Places episodes will precede Monday Night Football Classics each week at 7p.

NASCAR RACE HUB returns to the FS1 daily lineup on today at 6p with a modified, remote format, running Monday-Thursdays with host and analysts via Zoom from their homes. Additionally, on each episode, Lindsay Czarniak interviews a driver and his family one-on-one via Zoom from their respective homes for a behind-the-scenes look at their lives and new routines without racing. Czarniak’s guests this week include Denny Hamlin (Monday), Martin Truex Jr. and Sherry Pollex (Tuesday), Erik Jones (Wednesday) and Kyle and Samantha Busch (Thursday).

CBS Sports Network added 15 classic NCAA Tournament games, featuring National Semifinal and National Championship games, to its schedule for March 30-April 6. Overall, from March 22-April 6, CBS Sports Network will present more than 40 memorable NCAA Tournament games and a total of over 200 hours of Tournament coverage, including notable games for every round from the First Round through the National Championship.

ESPNU’s programming slate will be dedicated to a number of events across high school and college sports this week. The lineup will celebrate top high school moments, McDonald’s All-American games, and memorable upsets and events in men’s and women’s basketball, college lacrosse, NCAA wrestling, swimming and diving, and volleyball championships, Women’s Final Four, Women’s College World Series and College World Series. The slate starts today with Powerade JamFest, featuring eleven Powerade JamFests from the previous years, spotlighting high school performances of future NBA greats.

The YES Network is serving up its “YES Twitter Takeover” today, with former New York Yankees-turned-YES Network-analysts John Flaherty and David Cone, along with YES’ President of Production & Programming John Filippelli, live tweeting a pair of Yankees Classics running today on the channel. At 9a, Flaherty will live tweet YES’ telecast of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS pitting the Yankees against the Red Sox. At 7p, Cone and Filippelli will live tweet YES’ telecast of Game 6 of the 1996 World Series featuring the Yankees vs. the Braves.

After a two-week hiatus, The Paul Finebaum Show returns to its regular weekday slot on SEC Network with an audio-only format, beginning at 3p. “Over the past two weeks, the discussions on our show have ranged from the loss of sports to the loss of jobs, income, and even homes; from listeners feeling hopeful for the future to others who just needed someone to talk to,” Finebaum said. “Despite all of us adjusting to this new normal and distancing ourselves from each other, we’re probably more connected right now than we’ve been in a long time. I’m really proud of the conversations and discussions we’ve had on the show, especially over these past few weeks, and look forward to returning to television and continuing to support and uplift one another during such an uncertain time.”

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SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

The NFL announced that in collaboration with the National Football League Players Association, clubs, owners and players, more than $35 million has been donated to date, including $3.4M from the NFL Foundation as part of the COVID-19 relief efforts. The 10 organizations receiving donations are: American Red Cross, Bob Woodruff Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, CDC Foundation, GENYOUth Foundation, Meals on Wheels America, Salvation Army, Team Rubicon, United Way and Wounded Warrior Project. “We have all been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, we need to unify to stay home and stay strong,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “The NFL will continue to find ways to give our support so we can get through this time of uncertainty together.”

DIGITAL, DATA & TECH

Olympic Channel is launching a new Classic Finals Channel, showcasing action from Olympic event finals as they happened from past Games. In addition, the “Olympic Ceremonies Channel” features Opening and Closing Ceremonies from the Summer and Winter Games held during the past 30 years.

Outdoor Sportsman Group is reporting growth across all four network linear assets – magazine subscriptions, website visits and social. The digital side of OSG’s business saw page views and unique visitors experience double-digit increases compared to the prior year. Unique visitors to Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times and Handguns, in particular, saw massive increases, boasting growth in excess of 100 percent. And, 19 of OSG’s websites have recorded substantial increases.

ESPORTS

As NASCAR rolls out its eNASCAR iRacing series, the company is locking in international deals for the esports event. The org reports that as of Friday of last week, races were carried across 149 countries, via 18 partnerships. That represents over 200 million households outside of the US.

DraftKings is expanding its wings in the esports space, announcing a fantasy contest for Counter Strike: Global Offensive that will complement its League of Legends offering. Reportedly covering both ESL and Flashpoint players, lineups contain six players – one captain and five flex spots – with a maximum of three players allowed from any one team.

Mobile games platform Skillz announced a new fundraising initiative with the American Red Cross. Through proceeds from mobile esports tournaments, Skillz will help the American Red Cross ensure hospital shelves are stocked with lifesaving blood for patients in need during the coronavirus emergency. “Due to the coronavirus outbreak, blood drives continue to be cancelled at an alarming rate — about 8,000 so far — but we continue to urge blood drive hosts to maintain scheduled blood drives whenever possible,” said Jennifer Adrio, Executive Officer for the Northern California Coastal Region at the American Red Cross. “Proceeds from Skillz will help the Red Cross continue to deliver its lifesaving mission nationwide due to this public health emergency.”

Chipotle Mexican Grill is launching the 2020 Chipotle Challenger Series featuring online Qualifying and Finale competitions throughout 2020. To promote the series further, Chipotle has added an official team partnership with 100 Thieves’ Matt “Nadeshot” Haag, and Brooke “BrookeAB” Bond, as well as TSM’s Myth and streamers Jack “CouRage” Dunlop and JERICHO. The Finale will be shown on Twitch on April 25. Finale champions will win $25,000 cash and $25,000 to donate to COVID-19 relief efforts, as well as an exclusive card that grants winners a year of free Chipotle.

Rally Cry announced that it raised $1.2 million to bring organized competitive multiplayer gaming programs with funding from Mike and Amy Morhaime (Blizzard Entertainment cofounder and VP of global esports for Blizzard, respectively), Kevin Lin (cofounder and former COO of Twitch), Marc Merrill (cofounder and CEO of Riot Games), and others. The company was founded by Adam and Tyler Rosen, who founded Tespa.

Zaxby’s signed on as the Official Match Time Meal for the Florida Mayhem and team events. The partnership will also feature some tailgating and in-store activities later this year. With more than 900 total locations, and nearly 100 in Florida, Zaxbys’ chain of fast-casual restaurants is best known for its chicken wings, chicken fingers and signature sauces. “In these difficult times, we’re thrilled to have a versatile partner in Zaxby’s, that could adapt from live event activations to online activities for fans watching the broadcast,” said Ben Spoont, CEO and co-founder of Misfits Gaming Group. “Florida Mayhem fans will be able to take part in Zaxby’s competitions and deals while watching matches from the safety of their own homes.”

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On This Day
2001: Michael Phelps breaks the 200m butterfly world record at age 15 years, 9 months.

In the Know
In golf, what is a “snowman”? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city).

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question
In Episode One of the Star Wars franchise, in what sport did Anakin Skywalker beat Sebulba? Answer: Pod racing. Kudos: Michael Ritz-Lenox Advisors/NY; Rob Casalaina-ITN/NY; Chris Long-DraftKings/NY; Christian Matthews-Washington Redskins/DC; Stephanie Ann-Freelance Sports TV Director/Baltimore; Mike Wexler-Moroch/Atlanta; Allison Weiner-MMSI/Warwick; Tom Doherty-Starcom USA/Chicago; John Ward-Gamut Total/Chicago; David Westberg-SAG•AFTRA Credit Union/Burbank; Andy Babb-Super League Gaming/Santa Monica; Tim Davidson-DISH Media/El Segundo; Stacy Adams-Warner Bros./Burbank

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Lead a team of Campaign Specialists responsible for setup, trafficking and optimization of Ad sales campaigns across all NBCU News properties. Min 5 yrs ad ops exp. Knwldg industry tools incl DFP, Operative, Canoe and Freewheel. Full info HERE (4/3)

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