07/10/17: Phoenix goes Grandstanding; ESPYs stock up; UFC summons Legends

CynopsisSports
Good morning. It’s Monday July 10, 2017 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

As the need to mature the fan experience continues to take center stage, Phoenix International Raceway is ensuring a head start courtesy of a $178 million overhaul at the Avondale racetrack, serving up changes that will include shifting the start/finish line to the front of the grandstands, along with a new infield Fan Zone, better seating, access and more. With work expected to be completed in November 2018, Cynopsis Sports spoke with racetrack President Bryan Sperber about the investment and what venues need to consider for the modern consumer.
 
Sperber on approaching a modern renovation: There were a couple of things at play here. The good news for us is that the racing surface had been recently repaved and reconfigured so the actual on-track offering is fantastic and the track itself is in excellent shape. So really the consideration came down to how we upgrade this venue to meet the needs of all of our constituencies, and that includes consumers, sponsors, media and the industry. In the case of our raceway, it was clearly a beloved venue as the teams and the fans love coming here but candidly, the venue had grown a little long in the tooth and it was time for us to meet the expectations of the modern sports fan.
 
On changes: The first thing we needed to do was to upgrade the venue to modern expectations of creature comforts and that starts vertically with nine new elevators, four new escalators, and so the key is how quickly and conveniently we can get our fans migrated from the midway and into their seats. We started with that as our baseline and built up from there. We then wanted to take it a step further and offer something to the race fan that they can’t get at any other venue and for us that was wifi. I believe we are going to be the first racing motorsports venue to have wifi throughout the entire facility. That also unlocks the opportunity for us to really enhance the fan’s experience through on-site technology and we are well down the road with a number of partners on that ranging from gaming to video display that will be activate using this capability.
 
On new opportunities for sponsors: I think that part of it is how we merchandise the brand’s involvement with our venue so we paid attention to what we called canyons, which are these two big, grand entrances which are incredible candidates for brand integration and an opportunity for the brands to call out that they are involved with the venue. In addition, the wifi will also allow the companies to activate in new ways that other racetracks are unable to provide. The midway will also be much more programmed and serve up an opportunity for brands to deliver an interactive experience.
 
On goals: There are a couple of things we are definitely not changing. This is one of the most picturesque settings for auto racing with our cacti and mountains so this has always been a terrific environment and I think that fans will walk away believing that the physical facility matches the beauty from the natural surroundings, which enhances the quality of the racing.
 
 
ON THE AIR

The 25th ESPYS on ABC detailed its lineup of presenters for this year’s awards, with named that include: Chris Berman (ESPN), Dove Cameron (Descendants 2), Bryan Cranston, Eddie George (Heisman Trophy Winner), Samuel L. Jackson (The Hitman’s Bodyguard), Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks), Elizabeth Olsen (Wind River), Danica Patrick (Stock Car Racing Driver), Issa Rae (Insecure), Jeremy Renner (Wind River), among others. Meanwhile, singer Gallant will perform during the show. The ceremony will run at 8p on Wednesday.
 
Speaking of talent, NBC Sports Group shored up its talent roster with the addition of Jim “Bones” Mackay as an on-course reporter. The deal marks the first time a full-time PGA TOUR caddie has been signed for a tournament broadcasting role where he will add his unique perspective to Golf Channel and NBC’s coverage of The Open, FedExCup Playoffs and Presidents Cup in 2017.
 
Elsewhere at ESPN, the company announced that its coverage of Wimbledon is seeing returns up 42% after the first two days compared to the first two days a year ago, for an average of 601,000 viewers across television and streaming. Today, the company will deliver “Manic Monday” with all eight Ladies’ and eight Gentlemen’s Round of 16 matches set to run.
 
In other ratings news, Golf Channel and NBC’s coverage of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship scored record viewership for the pair of networks with last Sunday’s final round ranking as the most-watched telecast at this event on record., delivering 840,000 average viewers and up 1% year over year. In total, more than 6.5 million unique viewers tuned in to Golf Channel and NBC’s coverage of the KPMG Women’s Championship (+8% YOY), the largest total viewership of this event on record.
 
PBC continues to deliver for Bounce, as the June 30 edition of Premier Boxing Champions on Bounce saw its two airings combine to reach more than 1.3 million viewers. The live 9p telecast saw double-and-triple digit gains vs. the previous PBC on Bounce telecast, up 17% in Households, 106% in Persons 18-49, 62% in P25-54, and 36% in Men 25-54.
 
Around the dial, FOX Sports detailed plans to showcase the US Masters at the Tropicana Las Vegas from July 13-15 on FS1, showcasing six hours of the dart championships with two-hour programs following each day’s competition starting at 12:30a on Thursday. Chris Myers serves as tournament host; Jesse May calls the play-by-play; John Part, a three-time World Darts Champion, the match analyst; and Kate Abdo reporting.
 
ESPN Radio detailed its 2017 MLB All-Star Game plans for tomorrow, with coverage starting at 7p and featuring Jon “Boog” Sciambi and analyst Chris Singleton calling the action with Buster Olney and Tim Kurkjian reporting. Meanwhile, tonight’s national radio broadcast home of the T-Mobile Home Run Derby at 8p will also feature Sciambi and Singleton on microphone duties.
 
Elsewhere, SiriusXM’s coverage of All-Star Week will feature the national broadcast of both the All-Star Game and the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on MLB Network Radio. Pre- and post-event coverage will be hosted by Jim Bowden, Jim Duquette, Cliff Floyd, Grant Paulsen, Mike Ferrin and Casey Stern, which will feature interviews with the All-Stars, managers, coaches and other personalities. In addition, SiriusXM’s Chris “Mad Dog” Russo will host his daily all-sports show, Mad Dog Unleashed live from Marlins Park today and tomorrow.
 
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
Craft your branded content strategy with help from the experts at IFC, New York Times and Branded Entertainment Network in Cynopsis Digital’s July 25 webinar, Newest Strategies for Branded Content . You’ll learn:

  • When to use sponsored editorial vs. custom content vs. heavily integrated custom content
  • Purchase intent on desktop vs. mobile
  • Which ad formats (image, article, or video) are most effective given your strategy
  • Which KPI’s to focus on: unaided awareness, purchase intent, brand equity
 
 
SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

UFC unveiled a multi-year partnership with Legends Hospitality which will serve as the promotion’s first-ever“Official Global Event Retail Partner. The partnership, negotiated by IMG, will see Legends manage UFC retail shops at all events and fan experiences, both domestic and international.
 
ESPN Radio once again revs up for the 13th Annual ESPY Day Auction to benefit the V Foundation for Cancer Research on eBay with goods up through Wednesday. This year’s auction features more than 60 items and includes tickets to prime sporting events, unique experiences with ESPN talent and legendary coaches and behind-the-scenes experiences with ESPN’s  Stephen A. Smith, Scott Van Pelt, Adam Schefter, Jon Gruden, Mike Golic, Trey Wingo, Matthew Berry and more. Highlights include: the chance to attend the 2018 NFL Draft and announce an actual Draft Pick; a soccer clinic with Julie Foudy; an Alabama Football experience; a backyard barbecue with Mike Golic Sr., Mike Golic Jr., Trey Wingo and more; tickets to the U.S. premiere of Star Wars: Episode VIII; and a six-day luxury vacation at Pandora – The World of Avatar at Walt Disney World.
 
ESPN also announced the lineup of sponsors for X Games Minneapolis, running July 13-16, with live coverage on ESPN and ABC. This year will see Pacifico and Samsung join the roster of official sponsors alongside returning brands America’s Navy, AT&T, Fruit of the Loom, Harley-Davidson, LifeProof, Monster Energy and Toyota. GEICO will serve as the official music sponsor. Additional event sponsors include Explore Minnesota, FACEIT, Marvel, Rocket League, Skatelite, Sour Punch and Tria Orthopaedic Center. “We have a deep roster of quality brands committed to bringing the X Games to Minneapolis for the first time,” said Greg Rossi, VP Multimedia sales. “The venue and the event are both primed to be spectacular, due to the tireless efforts of the local organizers and the X Games team. The on-site sponsor activations are going to be next level and we look forward to hosting all the fans – from Minnesota and beyond – for a fantastic event.” 
 
Univision Deportes announced that Toyota has signed on as the first official sponsor of juanfutbol, the social-first soccer channel recently launched on Facebook that focuses on creating socially-native content for Hispanic millennials. With Toyota in tow, juanfutbol will create interactive branded posts throughout the three-week Gold Cup tournament, pitting North American, Central American and Caribbean neighbors and rivals against each other.
 
Northern Arizona University Athletics selected Learfield as its comprehensive multimedia rightsholder in a new 10 year deal, concurrent with the start of the 2017-18 athletic season. “NAU Athletics is excited to partner with Learfield. Our new partnership will help to continue enhancing NAU’s corporate sponsorship and gameday atmosphere,” said NAU Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Dr. Lisa Campos. “Their commitment to personalized service and brand awareness is tremendous. Learfield has a deep presence in college athletics and Lumberjack Country is thrilled for it to begin.” 

 
DIGITAL & STREAMING

SI Eats is now being served as Sports Illustrated’s newest site that will see SI journalists and expert contributors cover the culture of food, drink and travel and their connection to the sports world. Features from SI Eats will range from guides to the best eats across the country as sports fans travel to watch their favorite teams; the best, worst and strangest foods inside, outside and around major stadiums across the U.S.; recommendations on where to eat in the biggest sports towns, as well as tips and recipes.
 
FloSports is launching FloFootball following deals with The Spring League and USA Football to exclusively live stream championship games. “Today’s announcement illustrates our commitment to building and maintaining the world’s leading direct-to-consumer experience for all sports fans,” FloSports co-founder and CEO Martin Floreani said. “Football is arguably the most popular sport in the country, but it lacks consistent and comprehensive live coverage across all levels of the sport, and we believe our model can fill this gap.”
 
DraftKings announced the launch of WNBA offerings to its collection of fantasy games. “We are always striving to add the world’s most esteemed leagues to our platform, as we meet our consumers’ desire to play fantasy year-round,” said Matt Kalish DraftKings Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer. “We have had a strong partnership with the New York Liberty for two years, and we are proud to deepen our commitment to the team and women’s basketball with this new offering.”
 
 
ESPORTS

DreamHack is partnering with The American Video Game League and Twitch to launch college esports grudge matches at DreamHack Atlanta this year. The partnership will mark the first of its kind to feature collegiate esports at a major gaming event, according to the release. Participating universities include: Clemson University, University of Georgia, Georgia Southern, Georgia State University, North Carolina State, and University of North Carolina at Charlotte with matches live streamed from 10:30a-5:30p on July 21 and 22.
 
We have our first franchise owners for Overwatch League according to ESPN, which writes that the upcoming esports organization stating that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Mets owners Fred Wilpon had signed on for franchises in their respective cities. They would join other reported deals in LA and San Francisco in the US as well as Shanghai and Seoul overseas with the LA-based franchise purchased by Immortals and the San Francisco slot being purchased by NRG Esports.  
 
Ahead of EVO, Toshiba signed on to partner with Panda Global in a deal that will see the team’s players use Toshiba tech in tournaments and during streams. “Panda Global is proud to bring Toshiba into the esports space,” said Panda Global CEO Alan Bunney. “The Toshiba-OCZ Series SSDs is a perfect fit for the esports enthusiast so it’s a natural fit for us.”
 
 
THE MAIN EVENT

The 2017 T-Mobile Home Run Derby on ESPN at 8p.

A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
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ON THIS DAY in 1989: The Bulls hire Phil Jackson.
 
In the Know: The Boston Bees are now known as what MLB franchise? (Email [email protected] 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 Sasha Baron Cohen’s character in the movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby? Answer: Jean Gerard. Kudos: John Ferlazzo/London; Alex Falk-WME/IMG/NYC; Christian Matthews-Washington Redskins/DC; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Lance Phegley-Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine/Houston; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank

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