12/08/17: Four cities laid out cases for inclusion into the MLS

Good morning. It’s Friday December 8, 2017 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

The final four contenders for MLS’ two expansion slots pled their cases in NYC on Thursday, as Sacramento, Nashville, Detroit and Cincinnati all made formal presentations on Wednesday to MLS Commissioner Don Garber and the league’s Expansion Committee at MLS headquarters in New York City.
Cincinnati’s case was made by FC Cincinnati owner and CEO Carl H. Lindner III leading a group that included FCC President and General Manager Jeff Berding and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley. “We had the opportunity to discuss the special things that are happening in our hometown,” Berding said, per MLSSoccer.com. “What’s transpired over the last two years in Cincinnati has been remarkable, and we owe our supporters the credit for really the tremendous excitement and energy that has occurred in a city not too many thought possible two years ago. We’re very proud of Cincinnati – it’s a major-league town.”
Detroit’s presentations included Cleveland Cavaliers owner and Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert, Palace Sports & Entertainment Vice Chairman Arn Tellem (representing Pistons owner Tom Gores) and Detroit Lions President Ron Wood (on behalf of the Ford Family), as well as Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.”We believe we’re going to be like Atlanta,” Tellem said. “We believe that there is such strong interest in Detroit and the region, we’re going to be able to support crowds of 30-to-40,000 once we have an MLS team.”
For Nashville, executives heard from Nashville2MLS Committee chairman Will Alexander, who was accompanied during the presentation by John Ingram, CEO of Nashville Soccer Holdings; Mary Cavarra, EVP and CFO, Ingram Industries; Eleanor McDonald, EVP and General Counsel, Ingram Industries; Jay Turner (Managing Director) and Dirk Melton (Development Director) of MarketStreet, as well as Mark Wilf, President and Co-Owner, Minnesota Vikings. Alexnander stated that his group believes Nashville would fill a geographic void for MLS, potentially serving as the closest league club for 13 million fans across nine states. “One thing we pointed out is that Nashville as an entertainment hub has a global brand, and that’s unique, really – very few cities around the world are recognizable like that, and we talked about how we’d leverage that,” he said.
Finally, Sacramento’s bid was supported by Chairman and CEO Kevin Nagle, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, his predecessor, Kevin Johnson, and Sacramento Soccer & Entertainment Holdings COO and Chief Advisor Ben Gumpert, who announced that Meg Whitman and Griffith Harsh would be investing in the bid. “We knew that this was a step along in the process, and a step far along in the process,” Gumpert said. “And our goal and commitment from Day One, from Mayor Steinberg and Kevin’s leadership, has been to sprint through the finish line, and that’s what we are going to continue to do.”

Saturday’s presentation of the 2017 MLS Cup pitting Toronto FC/Seattle Sounders will see the game kick off on ESPN at 4p. Commentator Adrian Healey, analyst Taylor Twellman and reporter Julie Stewart-Binks will call the match with host Max Bretos, Kasey Keller and Alejandro Moreno, providing pregame, halftime and post-game studio coverage from site. Friday sees ESPN FC on TV dedicate the entire program to 2017 MLS Cup on ESPN2 at 4p.
Around the dial, Univision Deportes takes on the MLS Cup with coverage that begins at 3p and feature commentary and play-by-play analysis from Raul Guzman, Diego Balado, Francisco Villa, Marcelo Balboa, Lindsay Casinelli and Ramses Sandoval.
FOX Sports laid out season plans for the National Hot Rod Association with the release of the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series television schedule. The season opens Feb. 8-11, with FS1 home to three hours of live final-round coverage. Dave Rieff, Tony Pedregon and Bruno Massel return to the booth for the FOX NHRA broadcast team, with reporting from Lewis Bloom, Amanda Busick, Jamie Howe and John Kernan. In 2018, NHRA Today, the drag racing news and entertainment show, moves to a one-hour slot leading into select Sunday FOX NHRA race programming. NHRA in 30, a half-hour recap of the Mello Yello Sunday Finals show, also returns in 2018. FOX will bring racing to the broadcast network starting July 22 with the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, as well as races on July 29, Aug. 5 and Sept. 3.
USA Network is launching a new series titles NFL Football Fanatic with back-to-back episodes on Jan. 1 at 11p after WWE RAW. The eight-episode series will feature two episodes each week and follows Darren McMullen (“The Voice Australia”) as he embarks on a journey across America to delve deep into the culture of the NFL and find a team to call his own. Each episode, Darren will visit a different American city to learn about the unique take they have on football fandom, with real “super-fans” as his guides.
MLB Network’s next documentary will be MLB Network Presents: Billy, an in-depth profile of Billy Martin. Narrated by award-winning actor John Turturro, Billy premieres on Dec. 14 at 8p, marking the 30th installment of the MLB Network Presents series.
This weekend, of course, features CBS Sports carrying the 118th edition of the Army/Navy football classic on Saturday at 3p. Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson call the action with Allie LaForce reporting from the sideline. The pre-game, halftime and post-game studio show sees Adam Zucker serve as host along with analysts Rick Neuheisel and Brian Jones. In addition, the Heisman Trophy Award finalists will visit in-studio at the CBS Broadcast Center in New York City. Coverage kicks off with two-and-a-half hours on CBS Sports Network, starting with Inside College football Army-Navy March On at noon, a special telecast featuring the traditional “March On” procession when the Brigade of Midshipmen and Corps of Cadets make their entrance into the stadium.
ESPN’s Saturday plans will now take place from the Theater at Madison Square Garden when Top Rank on ESPN drops gloves just after 9p with a lineup of fights on ESPN, ESPN Deportes on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and the ESPN App following the live presentation of the 2017 Heisman Trophy Ceremony. Calling the fight for ESPN will be Joe Tessitore and Mark Kriegel, with guest analyst Tim Bradley, reporter Bernardo Osuna and on-location contributor Stephen A. Smith. ESPN Deportes’ coverage includes play-by-play from Pablo Viruega and analyst Delvin Rodriguez with bouts anchored by a WBO Junior Lightweight World Title pitting champion Vasiliy Lomachenko against Guillermo Rigondeaux.  
Facing sexual harassment allegations, Warren Moon will be taking a leave of absence from his duties as a commentator for the Seahawks radio network. Moon has denied the allegations, but will be replaced with Brock Huard and Dave Wyman on the platform.
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Sports Illustrated unveiled a licensing agreement between SI Swimsuit, Nomadic Entertainment Group and Revelry Eleven to create a “one-of-a-kind elevated experience for consumers to engage with SI Swimsuit: SI Swimsuit Island.” The SI Swimsuit Island festival will take place on Miami Beach from Feb. 16-18 and serve as a two-night, two-day experience that will include musical acts, a high-end culinary offering, exclusive fan activations, panels and appearances by SI Swimsuit models and celebrity guests. In addition, SI Swimsuit Island will kick off with “Good Vibes,” a charitable experience that will benefit hurricane relief for the Caribbean islands devastated this past season
Two veterans are reportedly making a return to the Super Bowl this year, Ad Age reports that Mars candy brand M&M will come back to the broadcast after a three-year hiatus with a 30-second TV spot, created by BBDO New York, that will air during the first quarter of the game. Meanwhile, Adweek writes that Doritos will run a commercial created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners after sitting out last year’s game.
NASCAR and Whelen Engineering inked a multi-year extension to continue its entitlement sponsorship of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series through 2024. Whelen will also extend its designation as the “Official Warning Lights of NASCAR.” “More than a decade of successful partnership has resulted in Whelen Engineering being deeply connected to many levels of our sport,” said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. “The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen Euro Series are critical to reaching fans, developing talent and delivering great racing both domestically and abroad.”
Kids Foot Locker is teaming up with Isaiah Thomas, Jimmy Butler and D’Angelo Russell for a campaign “to help show new-to-town young fans around their respective cities.” The holiday push saw the release of the first video featuring Cleveland’s new point guard, Isaiah Thomas, showing 12 year-old London Arrington around their new hometown of Cleveland. Kids Foot Locker will release additional digital spots as a part of the content series beginning on Dec. 14, featuring Jimmy Butler exploring Minneapolis, and then on Dec. 21, with the third and final spot featuring D’Angelo Russell in his new hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y.
The PGA Tour locked in a a deal to partner with Chinese firm Shankai Sports to manage the operations of its China series for 20 years. After a one-year hiatus, the PGA Tour China Series will resume next year.

ESPN is touting results from its first seven weeks of Nielsen Total Live Audience data, stating that streaming and out-of-home viewing are pushing audience numbers among Millennials (Persons 18-34). The company saw a 23% rise in that demo in Total Day and a 28% in Prime Time over ESPN’s traditional viewership. As a result, ESPN saw 4% and 13% year-over-year growth in Total Day and Prime Time viewing overall, respectively, among Millennials during that time period. “These early findings from Nielsen tell us that Total Live Audience is the only meaningful way to understand sports consumption, including key insights into our Millennial viewers,” said Cary Meyers, SVP of Fan and Media Intelligence, ESPN. “We will continue to mine this data to not only inform us on how best to serve fans with our content, but also to guide advertisers on how best to optimize their brand on our platform with specific audiences.”
The National Lacrosse League serves up its 32nd season today, reporting that the NLL’s digital-first approach last year saw its Twitter Game of the Week average 344,000 viewers in its inaugural season, while tts own OTT, NLL TV channel boasts 25,000 subscribers. Meanwhile, NLL’s revenues grew by an impressive 11% last year. Key in that growth was the emergence of NLL TV, new league-wide sponsorships and increased ticket sales.

Razer is teaming up with Super Evil Megacorp for a mobile esports partnership in a deal that includes serving as title sponsor of the Vainglory World Championship. Super Evil Megacorp, creators of Vainglory, stated that the strategic partnership with Razer is designed to further advance mobile esports beginning with a Vainglory competitive event at the Microsoft Store in New York City
The first-ever Collegiate Rocket League – National Championship revs up this weekend, with eight contenders in the mix to claim the crown include: Ohio State, UNCC 1 (University of North Carolina Charlotte), Northeastern Red (Northeastern University), Mustangs (California Polytechnic University), Cal Poly Pomona, UMD (University of Maryland College Park), UNT Eagles (University of North Texas) and Gryphons (University of Guelph-Humber). Play begins Saturday at 9a PT at twitch.tv/rlesports.
Meanwhile, more international sports teams continue to pick up esports squads. Bayer Leverkusen, from the Bundesliga, is adding FIFA pro Marvin ‘M4RV’ Hintz to its roster. Jochen A. Rotthaus, Director of Marketing and Communication at Bayer 04 stated that “With his skill and passion Marvin Hintz will be an excellent ambassador for us. Above all, he will make a major contribution to establishing the megatrend in our club. We are convinced of that.”
Meanwhile, Australian Football League club Essendon nabbed the rights to esports team Abyss, who will now reportedly rebrand under Essendon’s name and logo while relocating to Melbourne.

Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment named Elizabeth Brooks as Chief Marketing Officer to oversee all of the marketing efforts for BSE’s teams and venues, including branding, advertising, merchandising, creative, digital and in-game presentation. She joins u from Sopris Capital Associates, where she served as CMO and Executive in Residence for the private equity firm.

Toronto FC/Seattle Sounders for the MLS Cup on ESPN and Univision on Saturday at 4p.

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