Category Archives: Marquee

Lyons Column: The Games of 2015 and 2024

The Games of 2015 and 2024

By Terry Lyons, @TheDailyPayoff Contributing columnist

BOSTON – A dangerous game with the highest stakes in the entire sports world is playing out this summer, and about a week ago, the United States Olympic Committee doubled down on its weakening hand. The USOC is gambling with the battered reputation of the United States of America in the international sports community, and the organization’s wager is a “Come To Boston in 2024” bet that has a doubting New England community yelling “CRAPS!”

On January 8th of this year, the USOC surprised the elite followers of the Lord of the Rings with the announcement that Boston was selected over Washington DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles as the USA’s choice to put forth in the high stakes poker game of landing the rights to host a future Summer Olympic Games, targeting the next available Olympiad to be held way in the distant future of 2024.


With the fact that the Summer Games have not been held in North America since the ill-fated, domestic terrorist bomb-laden Atlanta Olympics of 1996, the Pundits of the Rings all believed the United States entry had a better-than-average chance at landing the ’24 Games. Since ’96, the better part of the universe has had its hands in the Olympic cookie-jar, including Sydney (2000), Athens (2004), Beijing (2008), London (2012) and all-too-soon-to-be Rio (2016). After that, Asia will host the XXXII Olympiad, with the 2020 events in Tokyo.

That left Olympiad #33 up for grabs, and what better way could there possibly be to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the great Larry Bird’s dual NBA & NBA Finals MVP season than the Summer Games right behind the Fourth of July on the Esplanade?

So the USOC acted on this notion back in January, and all the local Boston politicians and civic leaders jumped right on the bandwagon, figuring there would be much rejoicing. All was fine and wonderful in Beantown, for about as long as it took the New England weather to change.

The cruel winter of 2015 dumped 108.6 inches of snow atop the golden dome of the State House, the worst winter snowfall since 1872, some 24 years before the ancient Olympic Games of 1896. What the politicians and USOC members did not count on during that snowy winter were the two things every Bostonian can claim as his or her own – crankiness and complaining.

Bostonians, and New Englanders, in general, love to complain. They complain about the weather, the weather forecasters, the politicians, the sports teams, and their coaches. Even when the coaches deliver championships, the next season the fans complain. You can ask Red Sox manager John Farrell or Bruins coach Claude Julien, and they’ll tell you, if they still have jobs next week. And, that’s just sports!

When it comes to REAL complaining, Bostonians have three favorite topics: the Big Dig, the traffic, and the transit system, known to all as the T, probably since its formation in 1897, only a year after the inaugural and ancient Olympics in Greece.

Now put this perfect storm together, and you won’t need a PhD in Mathematics from MIT to frame the equation:

IOC + USOC + 2015 + 108.6 (snow) + Big Dig – (new Governor + new Mayor) = Boston – 2024

What is the answer to that problem?

A resounding no.

Faster than a politician can flip-flop, the grand plans of Boston 2024 were called into question, and the pronouncement of Boston being the USOC’s city of choice as fact was denounced by civic groups, claiming the 2024 Games would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions.

While the snow fell, Bostonians did what they do best and started to complain to their elected officials to the point where all hell broke loose, and the original head of the Boston Olympic organizing group, prominent construction magnate John Fish, had to step down and was replaced by Steve Pagliuca, known to most as managing partner of Bain Capital investment group and co-owner of the Boston Celtics.

In recent weeks, Pagliuca has done what any newfound co-chair of a committee would do. He called for a “players only” team meeting, re-shaped the Boston 2024 bid specs, and launched version 2.0 in order to appease the inquiring minds of “No Boston 2024” and a public still complaining about the Big Dig, the snow (and the resulting parking and traffic woes), and an ancient, failing transit system.

One thing is for sure: in the world of politics, investments, public opinion, and even sports, team meetings, re-launches, and versions 2.0 are not good, although Pagliuca has assured all who will listen that the premise of Boston 2024 will not come at the cost of taxpayers of the Commonwealth and the Summer Games will actually fuel a much-needed rebuilding of two Boston neighborhoods while the city works to finance its aging and decrepit infrastructure.

To that point, Pagliuca and Boston 2024 are right. The failing “T” and the aging roads are not going to fix themselves, and by 2024, they will be nearly a decade older.

So the question remains – Should the USOC put forth a bid to the world for Boston to host the 2024 Olympics?

With world-class cities like Paris and Rome amongst the competing cities, a successful Boston bid is a long-shot, at best. Even Hamburg and Budapest might be more viable candidates to the IOC. But the influence of the North American audience (aka NBC/Comcast television money) might be enough to influence the IOC hierarchy to vote for the USA candidate city, either in 2024 or no later than 2028.

The people of Boston need to recognize the fact that the old-fashioned way of “complaining and doing nothing” is only a mantra for the GOP, not a city in dire need of modernization.

While the bid-specs detail the use of existing facilities and champion a new approach, tagged as “Olympic Agenda 2020” by the IOC, seeking to cut down on the growing excesses of prior Olympiads, the secret sauce for Boston 2024 is to seek new and better sources of revenue generation.

One idea, totally lost in the shuffle of all noise generated this spring, is Boston 2024’s original bid idea to “farm out” some of the events – such as the preliminary round of basketball. In such a plan, two groups of six teams could play to large audiences in cities such as New York or Chicago before coming to Boston for the medal round to be played after artistic gymnastics folds up its tent and TD Garden reverts back to the parquet floor.

Another idea – ripe for the times – is to factor in potential revenue or licensing from all-out sports gambling on certain events of the Games. Properly administered, global wagering from authorized sports books and even daily fantasy sports could add tens of millions to the Boston 2024 coffers, and that would be just for the sponsorship or official licensing rights to the likes of William Hill or Betfair.

Affiliate fees and a portion of the take might net enough cash to appease the Boston 2024 naysayers while paving the road for additional fees to further ensure possible cost over-runs. The Mass Lottery might like it enough to begin the program as early as the Summer of 2016, when wagering or a DFS lottery on the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins and Patriots could mint millions, just as the Rio Games are planning to wager their Olympic reputations on the likes of win, place, and show bets on gold, silver and bronze.

Let the Games begin.

Growing E-Sports Business or Fantasy; What Is An Accelerator And How Does It Work?

Growing E-Sports Business or Fantasy; What Is An Accelerator And How Does It Work?

@JoeFav @TheDailyPayoff

The explosion of innovation in all things sports business and technology has created a gold rush for new ideas, especially in the pay fantasy and e-gaming space. However like the gold rush, many chase dreams of financial success only to leave with worthless pieces of lead, and sometimes, ideas stolen or good concepts that never reach maturity because of bad business planning. Into that void has come any number of companies and even Universities looking to help the best of the best. Recently the Los Angeles Dodgers launched an incubator program with R/GA to help a select number of companies venture west to try and grow.

Earlier this month another accelerator program came to the forefront, Stadia Ventures based in St. Louis. Stadia was co-founded by Tim Hayden, director of St. Louis University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Art Chou, a Chou, a former Rawlings Sporting Goods executive with the idea that not all good sports business ideas live on the left or the right coast.
We caught up with Hayden to explain the business, its differentiators, and why St. Louis.

Explain the goal of the “Accelerator” vs. a “Shark Tank,” a “Hackathon,” or an “Incubator?

An incubator is a hotel that houses entrepreneurs (individual startups or accelerator companies). Meanwhile the accelerator is the mentoring and educational program to give the startups a better chance to succeed.

An accelerator is like an executive MBA program for startups. However, instead of a degree, the ultimate goal is that the cohort company achieves a few major milestones during the 10-16 week immersive boot camp. An accelerator will pick winners and invest in them like Shark Tank…but mentor the winners like The Voice.
How is this different or similar from others like the Dodgers recently launched accelerator?

Our Stadia Accelerator is different from almost every other accelerator, including the Dodgers Accelerator, because we are a Sports Innovation Hub first and foremost. We do not work for a single brand or customer. We invite anyone and everyone in the Sports Business ecosystem (entrepreneurs, investors, industry executives, service providers, etc) to come together to create a stronger and smarter community. Our goal is to become the clearing house or the vetting program for each of the audiences, which saves each group time, pain, and money.
What type of business are you looking for?

Stadia Accelerator is looking for established startups in the sports business space. They must have a product or service, traction and they must be generating revenue. We want them to have proven that there is a market for the solution to a pain. We focus on companies in Software/Apps, Big Data, Equipment, Apparel, Training, Nutrition, Gaming and Fantasy. However, we will look at any company that can help solve pain in the sports business space.

Some people may be surprised to hear of St Louis as being fertile ground for such a project vs. NY or LA? Why St. Louis?

St. Louis is the gateway to the west for a reason. We were the trading post for everyone heading west to seek their fortunes. Our city was created by entrepreneurs, and we have never lost that spirit. The recent St. Louis entrepreneurial renaissance has been going on since the 2009 recession. While we lost a number of Fortune 50 companies during that time, many of those executives turned their talents and newfound wealth towards the entrepreneurial scene. Couple that with the fact that for a long time, our Universities embraced the fact that you need to teach people how to be better entrepreneurs (Saint Louis University has the #13 Entrepreneurship program in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report…23 straight years in the top 25). To set ourselves apart from the rest of the nation, our community and University leaders identified that entrepreneurship needed to be nourished. So they created Arch Grants, a $50,000 grant awarded to some of the nation’s best startups wanting to move to St. Louis for a year to continue building their businesses. Since 2012, 55 startups have been funded for a total of $3.1M (50 are still operating in St. Louis).

So when people around the nation say that St. Louis has a strong entrepreneurial renaissance because of our low cost of living and our access to top notch talent; that’s only a portion of the reason. The real reason is because we have worked together to build a strong ecosystem that supports entrepreneurship.
How have you attracted investment in the project and what are they looking for?

Unknown to a lot of people, St. Louis has always been a breeding ground for a lot of global, senior-level sports business talent. When you have the #1 global sports sponsor (Anheuser-Busch) in St. Louis, it’s to be expected. And that audience has always been interested in giving back. They want to see St. Louis become the Sports Innovation Hub. We joke that in 1904, St. Louis was the epicenter for Business (1904 World’s Fair) and Sports (1904 Olympics). So why can’t we be the epicenter again?

However, our investors also understand that this is not an ego play or a community play. This must be a smart business investment with the expectation of legitimate returns. It just so happens that this investment is in the sports business space.

And we tell our investors that we will only accept “smart money,” which are those that are familiar with the sports business space. We find that these people have a knack for picking winners in this space.

What is the competition going to be like?

There are many accelerators in the United States (St. Louis is the 3rd largest accelerator city in the nation). But most are focused on technology or biotech for early stage startups. There are very few focused on the sports business space. There are even less that are willing to invest up to $100K in each business. And there are even fewer focused on becoming the Sports Innovation Hub for the entire ecosystem.

Besides the funding, our true strength is our mentor network that we can surround each startup with. Our goal at graduation is to ensure that that each accelerator company has a follow-on investment lined up, a large order, or an acquisition suitor. We are directly tied with our cohort company’s success and failure…and we do not like to fail. In addition, once a company comes into the Stadia family, we will be looking for ways to help them…for life.
What level of expertise will the senior execs involved have?

The Stadia Advisory Pool is being assembled from every walk of life. Not only do we have sports business executives from teams, leagues, sponsors, sporting goods, etc. We also have executives from the various facets of business (lawyers, accountants, wealth managers, financial planners, insurance, operations, supply chain, etc).

Sports Business touches every facet of business…so we need advisors and mentors at senior levels to cover those needs.

What is the end goal in say, two years, with the project?

We’re in this for the long haul. However, in two years, we’d love to have 20 established startups that have grown and are still engaged with us helping to mentor future startups in our Accelerator.

Success for Stadia Ventures is defined as Do Good. Do Well.

Doing good means that we are achieving financial success for our cohort companies and the sports business ecosystem. But, doing well is a societal success. Did we help to make the founders better people? Did we help to get products and services into more people’s hands to solve their pains? Did we help the industry and our partners become more innovative? Did we connect good people with each other? And finally, were we able to establish a stronger ecosystem.

If we can say we have a stronger and smarter sports business ecosystem, we will have succeeded. But it will take time. We’ve been working on creating a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem in St. Louis since 1764.

Pay Fantasy Scores With Women’s World Cup

Pay Fantasy Scores With Women’s World Cup

The past few days there has been a great deal of speculation about what the success of the U.S. Women’s National Team can mean to the business side of women’s sports. More recognition in the mainstream can bring its perks, and although the stars of this women’s program are probably the most leveraged of any team of women’s athletes in terms of brand exposure, there is still a huge opportunity void that still can be exploited.

What about fantasy sports? Last week at the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Summer Convention, research showed that engagement by women in daily fantasy was the fastest growing demo, an area which is still small by comparison to men but it is growing by the day. And although Fan Duel CEO Nigel Eccles said recently at the Cynopsis Sports Conference that their company’s growth area for the next five years was going to be primarily focused on the NBA and the NFL, DraftKings and some other smaller companies have moved to find other niches of success in sports like fantasy golf and NASCAR and even soccer.

The company which has made the biggest investment in daily fantasy soccer is Mondogoal. Based in Isle of Man and Boston, CEO Shergul Arshad has built their company working with some of the bigger soccer clubs in the world this past year, and recently cast the dice by launching the first, and only, daily fantasy game around a women’s team sport, tied to the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Has the game been a success? We checked in with Mondogoal to see what the engagement has been like as we head toward this weekend’s final in Vancouver.

While they would not give hard numbers, Mondogoal reported very strong growth, which has included thus far:

Opening week of the Women’s World Cup saw 12% more activity (12% more entries from users) than the largest weekend of activity for the English Premier League.

In terms of new engaged users, thousands have become first time users of Mondogoal as a result of the WWC and Co-Ed contests.

Number of Female users has tripled over the amount of engaged users for pay fantasy play for clubs this past winter like Manchester City, AS Roma and FC Barcelona.

Despite the time difference (many games kicking off late at night/after midnight) they have seen thousands of entries in the United Kingdom as well, in part to the England National Team’s deep run into the tournament

More players becoming household names/well known. Early in the tournament Abby Wambach/Alex Morgan were among the most selected US fantasy players on Mondogoal, based on name recognition alone. Carli Lloyd, Julie Johnston and Megan Rapinoe have since passed them based on fans watching the games and recognition of their play during the tournament.

In addition, Mondogoal went co-ed and is expecting a similar rise in their $10,000 Summer Showdown contest again as well. It will feature the following matches, with 200 Users will enter and select top male players (Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Alexis Sanchez) alongside top Female Players and compete for $10,000 in prizes.

Chile v. Argentina (Men’s Copa America Final)
Germany v. (loser of Japan/England) – WWC Third Place Game
USA v. (winner of Japan/England) – WWC Final

What does this activity mean? Will we be seeing more WNBA, Olympic gymnastics and WTA and LPGA Fantasy going forward? Hard to say given the uniqueness of WWC, but safe to say that daily fantasy for select events, men or women, continues to have staying power and consumer engagement opportunities that are on the rise, and that’s good news for everyone, from fans to brands to broadcasters to athletes. The more engagement, the bigger the pie, regardless of gender.

Fan Duel, DraftKings Ramp Up Their Content Play

Fan Duel, DraftKings Ramp Up Their Content Play

Last Wednesday at the worldwide headquarters of Topps, media types from outlets big and small gathered to talk to San Francisco Giants star Buster Posey as he talked about his new role as ambassador with the company, as well as the no-hitter he had caught the night before. The usual suspects were there for a piece of Posey, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo, AOL Sports and Fan Duel.

Wait, Fan Duel? Was there a pay fantasy element involved? Nope, but Brandon Lee from the company’s news site, was there asking questions about the no-hitter and the world of trading cards, with nary a fantasy question being bandied about. Why? Good content to keep the die-hard fantasy player more engaged on the site, and through search, to probably pull in more casual fans interested in news for now, but maybe, just maybe, they will become brand loyal enough to join in for a paid daily game or two down the line.

It is a strategy that Fan Duel Insider is embracing more and more, and as expected is also being taken on more and more by DraftKings, who, according to a weekend story in the Boston Globe, have made a huge push in hiring their own editorial staff for their content platform, Playbook, just for the same purpose; provide original non-fantasy content that feeds the needs of the fan while keeping the core player interested and on the site just a little bit longer. Engaged core players may play a bit more, while new fans may come back.

Now this is not to say that the core news and information on both sides won’t be tied to analytics and the core gamer and fantasy news. Providing that audience with core news that helps them address fantasy issues is still tantamount. However, fantasy players cannot live by stats alone, so feeding in additional anecdotal news, video highlights and original content lifts the interest and the engagement of the anyone with an affinity to sports news. The other thing such news may do will keep engaged consumers on the site, versus going to traditional news sites like ESPN or Yahoo or for the non-fantasy information. If you can hold their attention, the better chance of building more engaged audiences for things other than fantasy.

The expansion into original content follows some of the other larger marketing initiatives that both companies have used to gain the attention of the consumer. While not into boxing per se, Fan Duel spent money to sponsor Floyd Mayweather Jr., while Draft Kings cashed in on a somewhat unconventional spend against the Belmont Stakes, grabbing great exposure in places like the cover of Sports Illustrated with their signage. Neither spoke directly to the core pay fantasy audience, but it helped remind casual fans that the companies are engaged on the business of sports, albeit mostly in the pay fantasy business.

Will such investments pay off? According to the Globe article, since a redesign in March, average page views per visit have increased 52 percent and time on the site is up 152 percent for Draft Kings, while Fan Duel’s insider content has also seen a spike in visits. Neither can say yet if that spike has led to more pay fantasy money being spent, but the feeling is probably more eyeballs more of a chance of engagement. The use of news content is also much more cost-effective than some of the other high ticket promotions and ad spends the company has done, and with partners coming on board more prolifically; ESPN and MLB with DraftKings, the NBA with FanDuel, the ability to share content and gain traffic is probably just a bit easier, especially if their staffs can become accredited members of the media with the ability to gain content at events. That content would probably include unique video, which remains king for drawing audiences.

So while you will probably continue to see ore on the sponsor spend side than on the news gathering side for both, or any, fantasy sports company, it is interesting to see how important well-rounded and expansive content is becoming as the battle for casual engaged consumers heats up across the summer.

With A Historic Saturday In The Books, We Asked What’s Next For Horse Racing?

With A Historic Saturday In The Books, We Asked What’s Next For Horse Racing?

So with American Pharoah’s run into the history books now complete, what’s next for horse racing in the United States? How does an industry slow on the uptake capture and expand what could be next? Are there brands like Monster Energy, Draft Kings and Wheels Up…or even Burger King…that entered the racing picture Saturday at Belmont and will now learn more and come back? We caught up with Stephen Panus from The Jockey Club to ask that very question.

“(Saturday) was a beautiful day for one of America’s oldest and most thrilling of sports as the nation and globe witnessed a dominant performance by a superstar race horse, American Pharoah. Rather fitting that it happened on the 350th anniversary of the first horse race being held in the United States. In 1665, the construction of the Newmarket course in Salisbury, New York, a section of what is now known as the Hempstead Plains of Long Island, New York, was established. The rest, as they say, is history. America’s history. America’s Best Racing will be launching a video ad campaign next week, coincidentally, celebrating this historic anniversary using the hashtag #Celebrating350.

The brilliant coverage by NBC Sports combined with the power of social media provides the sport with an opportunity to welcome in new fans while showcasing the many other big event days at destination race tracks across the country. America’s Best Racing – It’s fun, thrilling, an affordable sports and entertainment option, you dress up, sip cocktails, gamble, socialize with old and new friends and experience unparalleled adrenaline rushes.

There is something for everyone in horse racing as beautiful destination race tracks are scattered across the country, each offering its own unique atmosphere, food and beverage offerings and culture. From the Bluegrass of Kentucky, where iconic Keeneland will serve as the host of the 2015 Breeders’ Cup this October 30-31 and where the Run for the Roses happens every first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs, to Gulfstream Park in South Florida, to Pimlico and the Preakness in Baltimore, to New York which offers great summer racing at the historic Saratoga Racecourse in upstate New York bookended by racing at Belmont Park, to Arlington Park just outside Chicago. There also are many compelling smaller venues which offer festival-style racing and short circuits. There is no questioning that passionate fans comprise horse racing’s diverse fandom. Lively debates compare and contrast Del Mar vs. Saratoga for summer racing, for example, and everyone has their favorite race track for their own, highly personal reasons or memories.

Our goal is to leverage the popularity of the Road to the Triple Crown to carry forward the interest and intrigue by so many soon-to-be racing fans into the sport’s second season, The Road to the Breeders’ Cup (Oct 30-31 at Keeneland). The taboo associated with gambling has evaporated in the last few years and more and more sports and casual bettors are coming to realize that gambling on horse racing is fun, thrilling, analytical and profitable. In fact, the Breeders’ Cup offers two days of championship races in late October (including the richest horse race held on American soil, the $5M Breeders’ Cup Classic – where American Pharoah is pointing to end his 2015 campaign) where the fields will be stacked 12 and 13 horses deep with the best horses and some incredible odds for the betting public. I would respectfully suggest that the Breeders’ Cup is the most underrated major sports event in America. It’s an experience of a lifetime and one of the best 2-day parties you will ever attend.

For the new and casual fan, whose adrenaline was jolted and aroused by American Pharoah’s run to history, who now asks what is the Breeders’ Cup? We offer this video:

(Saturday’s) epic run to history will elevate the sport of horse racing into more mainstream channels and discussions. Water cooler talk on Monday AM will center around American Pharoah’s epic Belmont victory, the roar of the crowd that jumped through televisions across the US and hopefully will serve to inspire many of the millions of television viewers who are new to the sport to desire to attend a day at the races and experience the adrenaline rush, excitement and thrills in-person. Horse racing has much to offer the Millennial generation – it’s affordable, fun, and communal. You dress up, enjoy cocktails, wager against your peers. It’s a party and a unique social sports experience. Horse racing’s big events continue to grow in popularity, attendance and handle. The goal is to leverage the exposure and opportunity at-hand to welcome and embrace soon-to-be racing fans into the sport by offering multiple touch points of entry and access. And, is the perfect platform for them to enter, learn and have fun.

While day-to-day attendance at race tracks has certainly dropped over the years, the advent of technology and digital and social media enables new fans to engage with our sport from a variety of places and all via their phone, Ipad or tablet. And horse racing remains the only sport you can legally wager on via the internet. All that adds up to an opportunity for the sport moving forward.”

It was a great weekend for American sport, and a landmark weekend for racing. Let’s hope it continues.

Fan Duel, DraftKings Spend Away On Sponsorship; What’s The ROI?

Fan Duel, DraftKings Spend Away On Sponsorship; What’s The ROI?

The past week we have again seen the turf war/marketing grab escalate for brands looking for exposure in and around hot properties. From Monster Energy taking a Belmont Stakes sponsorship along with DraftKings, to DK’s annexation of all pieces of Madison Square Garden, including the jersey sponsorship for the New York Liberty, the massive spend to try and get eyeballs continues along for brands that are looking to capture and engage consumers, especially milennials around sports.

Do these type of sponsorships work? Do they fit a bigger picture or are they large gambles designed to get some corner of space so that competitors don’t get it before them. Recently Fan Duel, which has no real boxing business, chose to spend money to sponsor the Mayweather-Pacquaio fight and took up space on the champions fight shorts. Was there an ROI on that for FD, which also has begun developing their very smart activation plan for the upcoming NFL season, or was it a play to make more people just see but not engage in what they are doing.

“As the number of marketing messages proliferates due to digital, social, mobile media, it is increasingly critical for brands to develop fully integrated marketing platform, that ideally organically associate the brand with the content or sports property that is sponsored,” said Ray Katz, an instructor in the graduate sports management program at Columbia University and veteran sports marketing executive. “The programs should also address multiple objectives that include sales, “ownership”, engaging and exciting employees, and B to B considerations. One-off’s tend to be lacking in consumer engagement and long term brand benefit.”

While there is no doubt that even behind the scenes Draft Kings and Fan Duel are looking at those who spend money on legal sports gambling as part of their universe, publicly both companies continue to draw a line between fantasy and legal sports wagering, two properties heavily engaged with horse racing and boxing. So why do these sponsorships? One is the entertainment benefit that comes with such mega events, getting access to seats and experiences for your most engaged pay fantasy players, as well as for sweepstakes. Another is to prime the pump and build an audience which may or may not exist for a melding of sports gambling and pay fantasy down the line, or to at least engage known legal gamblers with more awareness for what can be done in pay fantasy today for consumers. If they bet legally, then maybe they are candidates for DK or FD. Still with this massive marketing spend, is it smart and strategic, or can the money best be spent elsewhere?

“An example of an effective integrated program having continuity is Penn Mutual’s title sponsorship of Collegiate Rugby 7s as well as the Varsity Cup, a 15’s event,” Katz added. “In this platform, Penn Mutual actually uses a Rugby theme for their annual report, titled a rapidly growing event on NBC networks, utilized the event and overall platform as a recruiting tool to attract younger agents, while making the brand relevant to a younger and largely upscale demographic as well. The signage was supported by Rugby themed advertising, which is becoming more prevalent as the sport becomes more mainstream and will constitute some of NBC’s most exciting new programming as a new Olympic sport.”

He went on to say, “ On the horse racing front, Belmont sponsorship programs which try to capitalize on the prospects of a triple crown would be best served using the Belmont as a kickoff point and then having some continuity through the Breeders Cup (Belmont to Breeders). Marketers should also consider the fit of demographics of horse racing, generally an older demographic with their target audience.”

So as the Triple Crown comes to an end this weekend, the sports marketing world will be lining up trying to tap the spending trough of both massive fantasy players, especially as large events, even those like tennis and golf that still don’t have a massive fantasy audience come into play. Whether those spends tie to a bigger cohesive plan, as Draft Kings has done with MLB and Fan Duel with the NFL remain to be seen. One thing is sure, the outreach to locate invested consumers for pay fantasy is going wider than it has ever been, and players in areas like horse racing and boxing are more than willing to take the money and roll the dice.

The Truth: A 1985 NBA Draft Lottery Flashback

By TERRY LYONS – follow on Twitter @TerryLyons

NEW YORK – NBA conspiracy theorists everywhere, I’m here to tell you the absolute truth about the 1985 NBA Draft Lottery. Yes, I was there 30 years ago as one of about a dozen people charged with running the event on behalf of the teams of the National Basketball Association.

Yes, we the soldiers at the NBA league office worked diligently on behalf of the teams.  We reported to NBA Commissioner David Stern and we toiled for thousands and thousands of long hours and travelled many miles to represent the NBA and its players to fans and businesses around the world. As with most human beings given a good job with definite goals and responsibilities, we took those jobs very seriously and did our very best on behalf of all the NBA. At times, the job descriptions called for us to enforce the rules our employers had signed into the league’s constitution and by-laws or the NBA rule book. Those were the times that were often most challenging because so many of our employers liked to try and bend the rules to best fit their own small world, their own situation, their own roster or their own rather short-term future. Not surprisingly, some of those people – while willing to hold their hands on a bible – swore they’d never toss a game. Instead, they camouflaged their so-called “tanking” by assembling rosters that would fail team chemistry 101 at any college in the land.

It is important to read between the lines of the words I’m writing because, at no time, do I believe the coaches and players walk out to the court with losing a game as a goal. In fact, I believe the coaches and players of the NBA and pro sports, in general, are the most competitive beings in the universe, right up there with thoroughbred race horses.  In my years at the NBA, players like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, and old-schoolers like Bill Russell, Jerry West and Rod Thorn taught me what the words “mental toughness” meant and how it related to competitiveness and winning games. On the flip side, full team rosters and starting lineups without cohesiveness are destined to fail, no matter how mentally tough or competitive any one player might be.


The NBA teams entered in the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery are as follows: The first three picks in the draft will be determined by the lottery and the remainder of the “lottery teams” will select in positions 4 through 14 in inverse order of their consolidated standings at the end of the regular season.

1st Pick
2nd Pick
3rd Pick
New York
L.A. Lakers
OK City


With that in mind, I give you the lead-up to the 1985 NBA Draft Lottery and, for those not aware of the situation, I’ll provide some background: In 1983 and 1984, the Houston Rockets were amongst the least cohesive and victory challenged teams in the NBA. Under NBA rules in ’83, the Rockets and the Indiana Pacers, as the worst teams in the Western and Eastern conferences of the NBA, participated in a “coin-flip” to determine the first pick of the annual NBA Draft, even though both Chicago and Cleveland had lost more games than Houston that season. The coin-flip was the first legislation to disincentivize teams from losing games on purpose in order to gain a better position in the annual draft and it drew the line of demarkation by conference. Through sheer luck of a “50-50” chance coin-flip, or the luck brought on after Manhattan restauranteur Jimmy Weston bestowed a clock shaped like a map of Ireland upon the Rockets’ staff contingent headed up by the great PR man, Jim Foley, the Rockets won the flip and the right to draft 7-foot-4 college player of the year Ralph Sampson while Indiana was left to select Steve Stipanovich with the second pick of the ’83 NBA Draft.

A year later, a slightly better Rockets team with Sampson and a dysfunctional roster around him were back in the West cellar. This time, with the great Hakeem Olajuwon as the prize, straight out of the University of Houston, none-the-less, the Rockets’ contingent was back at Jimmy Weston’s and the lucky Irish clock was removed from its place on the wall to accompany the Rockets’ group when they ventured to the 15th floor of Olympic Tower to call “heads or tails.” Team owner Charlie Thomas’ daughter, Tracy, had the guts to make the call and only as luck would have it, the coin came up heads and the crew headed back to Houston with the rights to “Dream” tucked into their briefcases. It was an unbelievable thing to witness and, although I was and remain extremely good friends with Foley to this day, I remember feeling quite sorry for Larry Weinberg and the Portland people that May day.

The times moved on and the league quickly adopted its lottery system to be instituted before the 1984-85 season when yet another prized collegian would be the No. 1 choice of the draft, that being Patrick Ewing of Georgetown.

The setting was the Starlight Roof on the 18th floor of the Waldorf-Astoria and the challenge of the event was the fact the NBA and the folks who televised “At the Half” for CBS Sports were contractually bound to wait until the wee hours of the morning of June 18, 1985 to load-in, then build-out the set and properly place cameras and equipment. While the conspiracy theorists, still somewhat ignoring the unbelievable luck incurred by the Rockets, conjured up the ridiculous vision of a “freeze-dried” envelope, the truth of the matter was that the people involved were deeply focused on the physical aspects of installing the set, cabling television cameras up 18 floors and getting a clear broadcast signal from trucks parked on the Eastside of Manhattan to the CBS Broadcast Center of the Westside of the city.

While some people might remember the “lucky horse shoe” from the great Canadien-born pacer “On the Road Again,” brandished by Knicks GM Dave DeBusschere when he took to his spot on the set, I remember flying cross country on a Red-Eye after Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals to join my colleagues in New York to conduct the very first NBA Lottery. I remember watching the calmness of Rick Welts, the head of our group, as he orchestrated the event plans. Rick, by the way, hails from Seattle where he started his career in sports as a ballboy for the Sonics, and he is now running the Golden State Warriors franchise. I remember watching Ed Desser planning the television aspects with set-designer Hugh Rasky and CBS Sports producers, like Bob Mansbach. Ed, by the way, hails from Los Angeles and had worked for the LA Lakers before joining the NBA staff as Director of Broadcasting. I remember assisting the great Brian McIntyre as we credentialed an ungodly number of interested media types from all corners of the USA. McIntyre ran the NBA media operation, just as he runs his life and family, with great honest, dignity and trust. Brian, by the way, hails from the great city of Chicago and cut his teeth in pro sports selling game programs for the Bulls and Black Hawks before the Bulls hierarchy was smart enough to hire him full-time in their small front office.

There were a number of others, all equally dedicated to the job at hand. Some of them grew up in New York but others, like Rob Levine, grew up as a Celtics and Red Sox fans in Sharon, Mass while still others hailed from Oakland, Denver or San Diego. So, while critics of the league office thought there might be a New York bias, the truth was quite the opposite, as the staff took on a decidedly nationalistic demographic as Stern tapped the shoulders of talented workers from different places to help him polish the gem that was the NBA in the early ‘80s. At the time, the NBA was a gem tarnished by years of mismanagement or non-managment, really, but, it was ready to burst-on to the international sports scene in ways never imagined by anyone, once polished and properly positioned to a legion of new fans.

The focus on the day of the 1985 NBA Lottery was actually so very basic, it took on more of a cry of hope to “not screw it up” rather than a form of any planning for after-the-fact. Yes, there were plenty of rehearsals, usually utilizing the team logo cards which were printed to be placed on the respective team table-tops at the draft, staged those years at The Felt Forum, adjacent to Madison Square Garden. The late Jack Joyce, a retired FBI agent who was a confidant of the late Larry O’Brien was in charge of the NBA’s security department and he was charged with spinning the drum on the lottery set, as his assistant, a NYC detective, Horace Balmer, kept a watchful eye on the process.

Levine, who was one of Welts’ top aides, made the suggestion to secure each envelope with a sticky, gold seal he purchased at a local stationary store on Madison Avenue which gave the look of a classy invitation to the otherwise plain envelopes. Levine was the last person to touch the envelopes before they made their way to the stage for all to see Joyce, Mr. Jack Wagner and David Stern conduct the actual event in front of the bright lights. There was no refrigerator. There was no dry ice. There were no bent envelopes or anything else that would have made any of us lose the very high level of credibility we all treasure and value to this day.  And, as Stern has noted on occasion of interrogation from inquiring minds, we were not in the practice of committing a punishable felony of fraud anywhere or anytime, never mind in front of television cameras for all the world to see as we represented the league and worked so hard to enforce its rules and procedures – on and off the court.

Looking back after all the years, I was fortunate enough to witness unbelievable acts of athleticism and, literally hundreds of hotly-contested, high-pressure feats, such as Julius “Dr. J” making his incredible reverse, under-the-basket and off-the-backboard lay-up in the 1980 NBA Finals against the LA Lakers, Michael Jordan’s “spectacular move” driving to the hoop a few years later against those same Lakers. I saw Magic Johnson whipping crisp passes to James Worthy or lobbing them into Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who would sink his patented sky-hook. I even watched Vince Carter jumping over Frederic Weis at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games but, to this day, there were two episodes that really stood out and I truly could not believe that I witnessed during my NBA career.

One was the first time the “Dream Team” took the court at the Basketball Tournament of the Americas and the other was the palpable tension that built up about “two envelopes” into that ’85 Draft Lottery. No one could’ve properly planned or really anticipated the magnitude of either one of those moments in time.  They were just truly incredible moments in sports history.

Now, after 30 years, I have mixed feelings about all that’s been stated about the ’85 event. My reactions to the conspiracy theorists were, in fact, much like Stern’s. My first thoughts were just amazement at their concept and imaginations and an honest hope that someone with that mindset is on the right side of the law. Then, some anger and resentment that so many – more informed people – would call our decency and credibility into question. Then, a return to amusement at the continued sillyness and ridiculousness of the length new media would actually go to continue such a stupid and wrong myth. And, then, a return to anger at the sheer longevity of the accusations. I try not to take it personally, but, deep down it still hurts.

Overall, I was happy to see the league take action steps over the years to instill more sense of fairness for the lottery teams. In 1986, the competition committee influenced the league’s Board of Governors to make adjustments to the system and the NBA decided the lottery would determine the order of selection for the first three picks only. The remaining non-playoff teams would select in inverse order of their regular-season records. Therefore, the team with the worst record would be assured of picking no worse than fourth, the team with the second-worst record no worse than fifth and so on. In 1993, the NBA board approved a modification of the system effective with the 1994 lottery, to again increase the chances of the teams with the worst won-loss records to gain one of the top three picks in the draft while decreasing the chances of the teams with the best records. The new system increased the chances of the team with the worst record drawing the first pick from 16.7 percent to 25 percent, while obviously decreasing the chances of the team with the best record amongst lottery teams. In ’95, the NBA adjusted the lottery with the addition of the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies (now Memphis) franchises and in 2004 the system was adjusted to make room for the return of Charlotte to the NBA and the probabilities set to what they are this week when the NBA stages the lottery in New York City, once again.

All of those adjustments in the rules were intended to balance fairness in the process to re-stock teams in desperate need of talent upgrades against the improper “tanking” of games by the front office personnel of teams seeking to position their franchises for an upcoming draft. To this day, I’m not sure there is a solution that can make it a perfect science, but I do applaud the NBA for consistently tweaking the system over the years and for focusing on the issues while seeking new and possibly better mechanisms to fairly disperse the never-ending talent pool entering the league.

Silver: Gambling ‘good for business, I don’t want to hide from that’

Silver: Gambling ‘good for business, I don’t want to hide from that’

Full credit to : By James Herbert | CBSSPORTS NBA writer

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been outspoken on the topic of sports gambling — back in November, he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times where he argued that betting “should be brought out of the underground.” On Monday, as a guest on the Boomer & Carton show, he was asked about talking to commissioners of other professional sports leagues about the matter.

“I did speak to all the other commissioners,” Silver said. “There was a range of reactions. Some were, ‘What are you doing?’ Others were, ‘Let’s study it, seems like an interesting idea.’ And that is not that we’re necessarily out there promoting sports betting, but the latest estimate is there’s somewhere between $300 and $400 billion a year being bet on sports in this country.”

Silver knows that sports betting is going to happen regardless of what the league does, so it doesn’t make sense to have a hard-line stance on it anymore. He said he wants to be able to protect the league’s integrity and monitor the gambling, adding that he studied European soccer and basketball, where betting is widespread and legal.

“Because they have all that data, they’re able to monitor it,” Silver said. “And if there’s any irregular activity whatsoever, it’s like tracking insider trading on the New York Stock Exchange. If there’s a blip, if there’s unusual activity, they know to investigate. So first the issue for us is if all this betting is going to go on anyway, we should be able to monitor it. And then, No. 2, if all this betting activity is going to go on anyway, make it legal. “It’s good for business, I don’t want to hide from that,” he continued. ”

Full credit to CBS Sports – seen here

Howling About Fantasy Sports: Catching Up With Rick Wolf

special thanks to Joe Favorito @JoeFav

While the casual fan may think that all this “fantasy” stuff is new from a business perspective, in reality the roots of fantasy are a few decades old, and there are few who understand the history, the success, and the failures of the business better than Rick Wolf. A Fantasy Sports Trade Association Hall of Famer, Wolf has been at the front edge of many of the biggest growth opportunities in fantasy for years, and now runs a consultancy, Full Moon Sports, dedicated to helping nurture and grow businesses in the fast moving space. He is also the president of Fantasy Alarm, one of the rising brands in the space.
Wolf has also authored a three part series on how to get into the business as part of his Fantasy Alarm work.
We caught up with Wolf to get a history lesson and a look forward into what is going on in the business.
Q: When you look at potential consulting clients, how do you determine what can work and what can’t?
A: When I look for projects to work on, I look for two things: (1) Does this project advance the fantasy sports agenda? That is will it raise the awareness of fantasy sports or will it introduce a new area of fantasy sports that will increase the number of players. (2) How helpful can I be to what they are trying to accomplish?
Q: Where is the biggest growth area in fantasy right now for a startup?
A: Right now, there are a lot of “me too” start-ups in fantasy sports. Quite frankly that is great. The smartest people start-up things that will generate some revenue while they find their niche. The biggest revenue growth area is still in Daily Fantasy Sports as it has only scratched the surface. The biggest pure penetration growth for increasing the number of players is still in the “second-screen” area. Single-game free fantasy sports will be bigger than anything we have ever seen as far as participation goes.
Q: With all the growth that has occurred in the fantasy sports business in the past two years, what is the one aspect of the business that has surprised you the most?
A: Honestly, it has surprised me that new companies will label things that are clearly gambling as fantasy sports or that daily fantasy companies have been unable to stay away from connecting themselves to gambling by using the words “bet”, “wager” and “gambling”. Fantasy sports is a game of skill like chess.
Q: The NFL just announced teams will be able to create partnerships with pay fantasy companies for a year and then the business will be reevaluated. How do you think they will determine success?
A: A hedge like this is very difficult to understand. Fantasy Sports is a cornerstone of the NFL. The NFL is a member of the FSTA. By placing a time limit on it, you don’t allow partners to long-term plan and INVEST in businesses with the NFL. The reality is that the all sports leagues have so much invested in the broadcasts that they should embrace fantasy sports as deeply as possible since it DRIVES VIEWERSHIP in every way imaginable.
Q: What sport has the most potential for growth in fantasy sports?
A: Globally, I think the NBA has the most impact right now and is growing in Europe and Asia.
Q: Many outside the US still consider the idea of fantasy sports to be an American phenomenon. Do you see the culture changing for the business abroad?
A: This is an American assumption. Fantasy sports is wildly popular in England, Australia, China and Japan amongst other places. In 2009, we tried to understand this and with IPSOS-Reid studied some international markets. In England 22% of adults played fantasy soccer or fantasy cricket. This is a lot bigger than the US.
Q: How does DraftKings announced partnerships with MLB and ESPN change the landscape of pay fantasy?
A: The arms race between Fanduel & Draft Kings has escalated beyond dollars and cents right now. It is great for the attention on Fantasy Sports. A deal like this always depends on the large partners showing up as partners. Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote this about partnerships in Fantasy Sports.
In this case it is especially poignant. I quoted the 1949 movie, The Fountainheadfrom the 1936 book by Ayn Rand: “In all proper relationships there is no sacrifice of anyone to anyone. An architect needs clients, but he does not subordinate his work to their wishes. They need him, but they do not order a house just to give him a commission. Men exchange their work by free, mutual consent to mutual advantage when their personal interests agree and they both desire the exchange. If they do not desire it, they are not forced to deal with each other. They seek further. This is the only possible form of relationship between equals. Anything else is a relation of slave to master, or victim to executioner.”
Time will tell if it is a true partnership.
Q: What was the biggest business mistake made in the fantasy sports space?
A: The world pays for executions and not ideas. People who come to me often tell me they have the next disruptive or revolutionary idea for the fantasy sports space. Fantasy sports players are slow to adopt new things, so even when things are “disruptive” or “revolutionary”, it takes years for them to penetrate. Look at daily fantasy sports for instance. Snapdraft was conceptualized in 2004 (I think), but was not legal until 2006. Instant Fantasy Sports existing illegally, but had very few customers. In 2006, when UEIGA made it possible to have daily fantasy sports, the fantasy sports player was happy. Fanduel and Draft Kings have advanced the number of players quickly by spending 10s of millions on marketing. Yet, they only have 8-10% of fantasy players trying this so far.
Q: Who are some of the business people you watch in the space?
A: This will sound odd, but I try to objectively watch everyone. Some of the best business ideas will come to me from people I have not met or fantasy sports players.
Q: What are the biggest changes, positive and negative, that you see in the fantasy sports business coming in the next year?
A: There is a minor crack in the business people on the seasonal side of fantasy sports attacking daily fantasy sports because of a small group of entrepreneurs who cannot stop connecting fantasy sports to gambling when the two couldn’t be farther apart.
It is critical that we do not allow that chink in the armor to expand regardless of how the egos play their cards. The seasonal content & service providers need to realize that daily fantasy sports created an opportunity to rejuvenate fantasy sports that they should embrace. The daily fantasy sports providers need to understand that they cannot simply do as they please with the use of gambling words, misleading promotions and should be thankful for what came before them that paved the way for the existence of this genre. Both groups should also realize that there will be something coming after them that will be more popular than both and they both should be hoping for it.
So this is both the biggest positive and biggest negative depending on which way the people involved go. Right now the most powerful leaders on each side are handling this perfectly. It is the smaller companies and providers that are jockeying for position that are hurting themselves and a $2B industry.
From my vantage point, I see my life’s work in jeopardy when people do not respect each other enough to play by the rules and believe that both old and new NEED to help each other.
Lincoln said: “A house divided against itself can never stand.”
Rick Wolf is a leader in the fantasy sports industry. He is a founding Board Member and one of only fifteen FSTA Hall of Famers including Bill James, Ron Shandler, Glenn Colton and Matthew Berry. He is the Co-Host of Colton & The Wolfman every week on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio. With college friend, Glenn Colton, he has won five Expert baseball titles and four Expert football titles. He currently runs the sports consultancy Full Moon Sports, which has assisted many sports companies including Topps, USA Today and FOX.

ARod’s Accomplishments May Not Get the Team Love

By Joe Favorito @JoeFav @TheDailyPayoff

On April 28 the New York Yankees will have a Bobblehead night for one of their stars. He crosses cultural demos and brings people out to the ballpark in The Bronx who may not come out otherwise.

Later this summer they will honor one of their legendary players from the recent past, one who admitted using PED’s but then came back to resume his career without incident.

Neither is Alex Rodriguez. They are Masahiro Tanaka and Andy Pettite.

What about Rodriquez, who is about to pass Willie Mays on the all-time home run list and will pass a host of milestones as he returned from his year-long suspension and very public dispute with his team and Major League Baseball? Nothing yet.

Other teams like the Milwaukee Brewers have found ways to heal and then promote fallen stars like Ryan Braun, but the Yankees and ARod, arguably their best player this early on in the MLB season…nothing. Stone silence. The team’s social media push throughout the spring hardly mentioned anything Rodriguez did on or off the field, his bio is smaller than what one would expect and there are few if any public celebrations during games of Rodriguez. He is there in body, but not promotion as he plays through his contract and goes about his job for The Bronx Bombers.

What should and could be a marketing bonanza for the team and its partners is non existent. The millions made on the backs of Derek Jeter’s farewell season are a memory. The events created are in the past. For ARod, the accomplishments are speaking for themselves with few to amplify the message.

This is not all cut and dried or very simple. Jeter was the model athlete for a generation and there is no comparison in terms of public image between the two superstars. Then there are millions of dollars in incentives the Yankees will have to pay Rodriguez as he reaches his milestones, and reports have said the club will fight those payments because of ARod’s suspension and all the issues publicly and privately that came along with it. Glorifying anything Rodriguez does publicly, some say, will hurt their chances of regaining the millions currently owed to him as incentives. This fight will go on for a long time probably, longer than the remaining part of Rodriguez’s career.

However the other side comes with MLB, which continues to acknowledge Rodriguez’s statistical marks, suspension or not. While MLB has not gone on a public crusade to glorify the coming milestone breakers, they have not walked away from noting the numbers or his daily on-field accomplishments.

Fans too seem to be warming to the returning Rodriguez, who by all media accounts has been the model teammate thus far, and has stepped very carefully around any public spats with the organization. He is playing, and playing well, and trying to keep the healing going publicly. As he plays well the public seems willing to forgive and move on. For the Yankees, long steeped in tradition and tied up in legal issues, not quite yet. Ad for brands around the team that could tie easily into a campaign for the fallen Yankees star now on the comeback, there is also lots of silence. No one seems willing to yet cross the line and risk public brand scrutiny for tying to Rodriguez; not yet anyway.

It is still early, and the Yankees, as savvy a business group as there is, are watching and weighing options every day. The legal issues make public comment on the subject probably impossible to comment on. However from a promotional standpoint, the crosstown Mets and their young stars are slowly ceding casual fans interested in a day at the ballpark away from the rebuilding Yankees this spring. Should that continue, would the Yankees and their brand partners bite the bullet and start promoting Rodriguez like they do their lesser stars? Or is the legal risk too great, with short term pain being better for the long term legal gain?

In the daily media grind, manager Joe Girardi handles each question tactfully and moves on. On the promotional side, fans can come to get their Tanaka bobbleheads later this month and will cheer for Pettite when he is honored this summer without any issue or backlash.

However for ARod, the sound of promotional silence continues. For how long is anyone’s guess at this point. We are a forgiving lot as fans for the most part, and we love a comeback. Will the Yankees find a way that makes sense, even subtly, to forgive and move on. Tough and complex call for the organization, but one worth watching as the weather, and the record book, heats up in The Bronx.