Tonight at Unpacks: SBJ returns to print with its first issue for 2023, and a fun one at that. Executives talk about changes, both far-fetched and practical, that the sports industry could make to offer a better fan and spectator experience, improvements in competition and technology, and a healthier business climate.
- Cardinals, Texans make NFL Black Monday moves
- FanDuel picks Rob Gronkowski for his Super Bowl commercial debut
- Famous Group’s mixed reality CFP ad will run through SoFi Stadium
- Baseball America’s move to remote operations opens more doors than it closes
- Launching the new SBJ Tech home page!
On this morning’s Buzzcast, SBJ’s Abe Madkour examines the dominance of sports programming on linear television. He also looks at the NFL playoffs and considers who might be interested in courting WWE, which now has the bank to sell him.
Sports people can be a creative bunch. For the first edition of 2023, SBJ’s cover asks them for their ideas on how to improve sports and the business of sports, resulting in some fascinating answers that could show CEOs the way forward.
Some of the ideas seem feasible enough to implement now, such as schedule changes that appeal to the sport’s most avid fans or are aimed at increasing audiences. Others are a little fancier, like changing the rules on how leagues handle rested players, using advanced analytics, and new technologies like the metaverse.
Here’s an example of a proposal that sticks out from this week’s magazine:
- Educating fans about sports betting: how it works, the sometimes complicated language, and how to make sense of the various sportsbooks and promotions.
- Using data to predict how crowds might behave in certain situations, with the idea of keeping fans safer, much as technology has improved teams’ approach to ticket sales.
- Taking a cue from Disney parks and using digital glass and transparent screens to enhance the fan experience in arenas and stadiums.
- Connecting with fans through biometrics, using data derived from fan emotions and reactions to improve the gaming experience and sponsor promotions.
Black Monday arrived in the NFL with the 3-13-1 Texans firing first-year coach Lovie Smith and the 4-13 Cardinals firing coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Kingsbury’s firing ends his four-year tenure with the Cardinals. The team also said GM Steve Keim (who has been on sick leave since mid-December) will leave for good to focus on his health. The Cardinals had just one winning season during the Kingsbury years (11-6 in 2021), and his firing comes less than a year after owner Michael Bidwell extended his fully guaranteed contract through 2027.
Smith follows David Culley as the one-and-done coach of the Texans. GM Nick Caserio and CEO Cal McNair will oversee the search for a new coach for a franchise that has fired its first coach in back-to-back years in the Super Bowl era.
Other moves to watch out for? ESPN.com notes that Saints coach Dennis Allen figures to return, while Jeff Saturday is already lobbying to remove the “interim” tag with the Colts.
Rob Gronkowski will christen his new role as spokesperson for FanDuel with a series of ads that follow his journey from ball-buster to … graceful field goal shooter, SBJ’s Bill King reports. It’s part of a promotion that could bring up to $10 million in free bets on the sportsbook site.
Gronkowski, who already has a prominent role endorsing USAA’s banking and insurance campaign, signed with FanDuel in December. This is his first campaign with a sportsbook. “Kick of Destiny” opens with an ad showing Gronkowski talking to his agent about a new Super Bowl spot with that unexpected live TV kick. “Oh man,” Gronkowski says upon seeing his picture on the towering FanDuel billboard. “I’d better call Vinatieri.”
Fans will also get a chance to win $25 by hitting up the FanDuel presence themselves at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, host of Super Bowl LVII, along with taking a photo with a giant replica of Gronkowski’s “Foot of Destiny.”
The Famous Group brings back its mixed reality racing experience for tonight’s CFP National Championship at SoFi Stadium. It not only shows what this technology can do, but how quickly a company can change it from one use to another, writes SBJ’s Tom Friend. It will air during halftime on ESPN.
The Famous Group will use the same real-time 3D commercial that debuted during the CFP semifinals at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but will use a different tracking camera and Skycam located inside SoFi Stadium’s signature oculus video board. In the commercial, the pitch will open up and four Mercedes-Benz cars will race across the pitch, through the goal posts and into the video board (MB is a CFP sponsor).
Famous Group continues to expand the scope of these ads, showing one for the Bears-Patriots game at Gillette Stadium for “Monday Night Football”. He has experience with other NFL teams, doing mixed reality mascots for the Ravens and Panthers. It has also worked with the NBA, NHL, MLB and PGA Tour and was selected as one of SBJ’s 10 Most Innovative Sports Technology Companies.
Baseball America has made working entirely remotely part of its larger marketing strategy, as it invites fans to come to its longtime headquarters in Durham, N.C., to pick up memorabilia as it prepares to launch a new version of its website in April, writes Erik of SBJ. Bacharach. The new site will focus on delivering more statistics and better content focused on fantasy baseball and betting.
More than 500 fans showed up to the 5,500-square-foot office to take home a piece of Baseball America history, grabbing posters of magazine covers, bobbleheads and more. The company also donated furniture to Habitat for Humanity, and editor-in-chief JJ Cooper said he was surprised one visitor called the office a “Mecca” of sorts.
As businesses continue to adapt to a world living with COVID, more and more companies are bringing workers back to the office. But Baseball America (which had 15 people working in the space) sees added value in doing everything remotely beyond just saving money on office space. It allows the publication to expand its recruitment network, giving people (especially writers and editors from underrepresented groups) who couldn’t move to Durham an opportunity to join the staff.
We’re pleased to launch SBJ Tech — the new home of SportTechia — where you’ll find industry-leading daily content dedicated to the intersection of sports and technology.
Orrick partner Jeremy Kudon, whose firm helps direct the lobbying strategy for a large coalition of leagues and sportsbooks, walks SBJ’s Bill King through the legislative landscape for the many states that have yet to legalize sports betting. The duo examined the current political structure and past proposals and actions that could make them ripe for legislation — or guaranteed “no” votes.
The latest SBJ betting newsletter also covers:
- November sports betting rate exceeds $8 billion in the US
- The latest information on Massachusetts Gaming Commission hearings
- The NWSL said commissioner Jessica Berman imposed fines and suspensions as disciplinary measures based on the findings of a Dec. 14 investigation report, banning four coaches and fining the Chicago Red Stars $1.5 million and the Portland Thorns $1 million for abusive behavior. and inappropriate sexual behavior.
- Gaming and lifestyle organization FaZe Clan has elevated six women to prominent leadership roles, writes SBJ’s Kevin Hitt. This includes former chief of staff Rena Kaplan, who is now FaZe’s director.
- Premier Boxing Champions broke Capital One Arena’s all-time record with more than $5 million in Saturday night ticket revenue, SBJ’s Adam Stern reports.
- Former NFL player Brandon Marshall is releasing HOA+ (House of Athlete), a fitness app for the Apple Watch, notes SBJ’s Joe Lemire.