Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dollars & Sense - Business Fallout For Aaron Hernandez

"You should probably lay low for a while because you're probably wanted for murder." - Anchorman

Alright, so maybe Ron Burgundy was talking to Brick Tamland and not Aaron Hernandez, but at this rate he may as well have been.  The troubled New England Patriots tight end seems closer and closer to finding himself with a murder charge on his record sheet after his Wednesday morning arrest, something that does not look so nice next to his 175 receptions, nearly 2,000 yards receiving, and 18 touchdowns.
Of course, nothing is official yet.  Hernandez could be hit with just the original obstruction of justice since breaking a security system and busting a cell phone are not exactly aiding justice, per se.  Then again, maybe Hernandez gets off with nothing at all.  Some may cry professional athlete with that, but who knows, maybe all of the evidence that is piling up against Hernandez like the winter snow in Foxborough is just a big inconvenient coincidence.

In addition to feeling the heat from the authorities, Hernandez is beginning to feel the heat on the business end as well.  Cytosport, a sports nutrition company best known as the makers of Muscle Milk, has dropped Hernandez from their athlete portfolio.  Other athletes that endorse Cytosport are Clay Matthews (Green Bay Packers), Ian Kinsler (Texas Rangers), and most recently Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers) among others.

Upon hearing the news of Hernandez's arrest, the Patriots promptly released the 23-year-old.  As for his contract with the Patriots, Hernandez signed a 5-year, $40 million extension in 2012 that included $16 million guaranteed.  He is represented by Athletes First.  It remains to be seen if the Patriots could recover some of the guaranteed money that they owe Hernandez, although that will likely be contingent on the legal proceedings.

The Patriots had already asked Hernandez to stay away from Gillette Stadium and all team facilities.  Owner Robert Kraft said that he did not want the Patriots' facilities to become a media stakeout like Hernandez's North Attleboro home has become.
Many will try to breakdown Hernandez's involvement (or lack thereof) in the murder of Odin Lloyd and pin it on a certain piece of character that may look questionable.  Is it because Hernandez has tattoos?  His alleged gang involvement?  The jock culture sense of entitlement?

Circumstantially, you could make an argument in favor of any of the three.  That is the easy way out, though. Read Charles Pierce's piece about Aaron Hernandez and the American Way because he puts my thoughts in much more eloquent writing.  You will enjoy it, trust me. But even if there are guns in the world, just don't shoot people.  Is that too much to ask?  Professional athlete or not, I don't think we are asking for anything too outlandish.

Now Hernandez is arrested and in the hands of the police.  If Hernandez is charged in connection to Lloyd's murder, he will become just another athlete that threw it all away.  Then again, he already lost his endorsement and his contract, so maybe he already has.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Broken News - San Francisco Giants Open Social Media Cafe

While some teams are left wallowing in the past, some are blazing a trail for the future.  Professional teams that are ahead of the curve on the technology side of the game are the subject of envy from many top industry executives.  Social media has been one of those technologies that some teams find themselves on a road to success while many are left scratching their heads in the dust.

The San Francisco Giants have been one of those trailblazing teams for some time now.  Just check out some of their stats from a press release on Monday:

They currently lead all of baseball in Instagram (over 255,000) and Google Plus (over 1 million) followers; are ranked fourth with 434,000 Twitter followers and fourth with 1.69 million Facebook fans. Of the top 10 trends in sports for 2012, #SFGiants ranked fifth, ahead of #Jeremy Lin, Super Bowl, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and the New York Yankees. In 2012, AT&T Park was the third most "checked-in" Facebook venue in the world, behind Times Square and Disneyland.

The Giants have taken another big step forward, this week announcing the opening of their social media cafe called "@Cafe."  The cafe will serve coffee, tea, and your typical cafe affair, but it will feature TVs showing the batting practice for those that arrive early and the game.  @Cafe's big feature is its video board that will show Giants-related Tweets, Instagrams, Facebook content.

One of the most recent social media projects from the Giants that I thought was well done was a question and answer session on Vine with outfielder Hunter Pence.  Vine, a social media platform where users post 6-second videos, has been tough for many to figure out how to leverage.  The Giants, of course, found the way by having fans send their Vine of a question using a specific hashtag and Pence would then answer in a 6-second Vine of his own.

Innovation is key on social media as the space becomes more crowded by the day.  The teams that get it are the teams that use social media as a way to connect with fans and more than just a simple PR broadcast extension.  The San Francisco Giants are on the cutting edge, what is your favorite team doing?

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Clayton Kershaw Looking for the Big Dollars

Clayton Kershaw is in the final year of his two year deal that paid him $19 million. Kershaw is in talks with the Dodgers over a new deal that he expects to receive after this contract expires. Recent rumors have leaked that suggest Kershaw is looking for a big payout.

Looking a Clayton Kershaw's career numbers, he is deserving of a generous long term contract. Kershaw has been in the league for five and a half seasons, all of which are with the Dodgers. In his time in the league, Kershaw has posted a career ERA of 2.70 and an equally as impressive record of 66-41. Adding to his credentials, Kershaw won the 2011 NL Cy Young Award after posting a 1.84 ERA.

Major league pitchers have been the beneficiary of big contracts especially in recent years. In March, Justin Verlander received a seven year extension worth $180 million. The rumors have suggested that Kershaw is looking to get paid more money than Verlander making him the highest paid pitcher in baseball. Most suggest that Kershaw is looking to make somewhere in the $200 million range. One Yahoo article suggest that Kershaw can be looking for as much as $300 million!

Clayton has been upset to hear the rumors come out in public and he blames the Dodgers. When asked about his upcoming contract Kershaw said, "I think the reason we've been able to continue discussions for this long it that it's not been talked about." Kershaw later went on to say that is has become a distraction and told reporters "I guess you'll have to talk to the Dodgers as to why it came out. I don't love the fact that I have to talk about it."

Final Thought
The Dodgers have shown a recent willingness to spend money under new ownership. I am expecting that Clayton will be the highest paid pitcher in baseball next season. In the current economic climate of Major League Baseball, Clayton deserves top dollar. Everyone is aware that this year is the last of Kershaw's current contract. It is no surprise that reporters are talking about what will happen next. Kershaw should not be offended or upset by the rumors circulating, he is about to be the highest paid pitcher in baseball.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Dollars & Sense - US Open Brings Big Money to Philadelphia Area

The 2013 US Open tees off from Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, P.A. this morning, but the impact has already begun to be felt.  With three days of practice rounds already in the books, the Philadelphia area has likely already seen a boost in the local economy.

Earlier this month, the Philadelphia Inquirer took a look at amount of money that the area is set to take in.  They pegged the figure between $100 and $120 million and about 190,000 spectators, volunteers and staff over the course of the week.  To set a standard for comparison, the article used the 2002 X Games, which brought in $40 million and 235,000 spectators over ten days.

This kind of eight to nine figure economic impact within a week to two week span is something that professional teams cannot offer.  Teams tout their impact on the local economy, but study after study shows that in most cases there is simply a shift in where the the impact is felt within a certain region, not necessarily resulting in an overall gain.

However, major events like a US Open bring in people from outside of the country and sometimes from outside of the United States.  Hotels have reported that they have seen reservations from foreign countries like Germany, Ireland, and Japan, according to the Inquirer.

With Monday's practice round a washout, it is uncertain how much the impact will be, well, impacted.  If you only had tickets to Monday's practice round, would you have left early, hung around and checked out the area, or hung around and tried to get tickets to another practice round?  Maybe the combination would result in no change to the overall estimated impact.

Either way, the pros are ready to take on one of the most historic courses in the country, Merion Golf Club.  Though short, Merion will prove to be a difficult test for many especially when it comes to making disciplined decisions and club selections.  The pros are ready to play, but are you ready to spend?

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

U.S. Open Week Television Coverage

As an avid golf fan, this time of year is exciting to me. It is U.S. Open Week! On Thursday the players will be teeing off on a quest to become the 113th winner of the U.S. Open (well, if the weather holds out...)

At the beginning of the week, coverage of the U.S. Open started. In total the Golf Channel and NBC will be delivering over 70 hours of coverage for the tournament. Included in the coverage is news, live chats, features, highlights, live coverage and more. The Golf Channel will have about 56 hours of coverage and NBC will have about 19 hours.

Included in the Golf Channel's coverage will be Live From the U.S. Open which will air before and after live coverage to show highlights and bring any breaking news stories. A popular Golf Channel show, The Golf Fix, will also be airing from the driving range of Merion. The Golf Channel will also be airing a feature titled "1971 U.S. Open: Lee Trevino an American Champion." This documentary will look at Trevino's shocking victory over Jack Nicklaus in the 1971 U.S. Open at Merion.

NBC's coverage will focus on live action. NBC plans to bring live U.S. Open coverage on Thursday and Friday from 3:00pm to 5:00pm. On Saturday and Sunday coverage is expected to take place from 12:00pm to 7:30pm. For NBC it will be interesting to see how many viewers tune in. Last year's U.S. Open saw final round coverage that earned a 6.6 overnight rating. This was up 29 percent from the final round of 2011. The increase in viewership last year can be somewhat contributed to the location of the tournament. The U.S. Open's that take place on the west coast (like last year) typically see higher television ratings because of the ability to broadcast in primetime on the east coast.

Final Thought
As a golf fan any major is exciting. This year brings a little extra excitement because they are playing so close to home. All I can ask for is an exciting tournament that has my eyes glued to the television on Sunday afternoon.... A Tiger victory would be nice too.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Dollars & Sense - Top 3 Brands to Watch in the NBA Finals

I would ask who all of you think will win the 2013 edition of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, but the clear favorite seems to be the Heat.  I already asked about where the NBA Finals will stand in terms of television ratings, but I did that at another time in another place.  Taking things in a bit of a different direction here are my top three brands to watch during the NBA Finals.

We have already seen guys like Golden State's Stephen Curry and Memphis' Mike Conley and Indiana's Roy Hibbert (before his distasteful comments) vault their way into the next level of stardom.  Curry, doing things that are not even possible in video games, looked dangerously close to putting all of Golden State - well, San Francisco - on his back to the Western Conference Finals.  Conley's Western Conference Finals performance may have fallen short of the show he put on in the previous round against Curry's Warriors, but he finally looked like a player deserving of a 5-year, $45 million contract.  Hibbert sky-hooked the Pacers within one game of the NBA Finals and is looking to be reviving the dying bread of old school centers.

With the playoffs now down to two teams, which three players have the most to gain in the NBA Finals?

Chris Andersen (Miami Heat, Forward)
NBA followers have known about "Birdman" for years, and at 34 years old, it's tough to tell whether they know him for his on-court doings or his ever-growing collection of colorful tattoos.  Either way, for a brand's sake, truthfully it doesn't matter where the positive attention is coming from.

But is enough of the attention paid to Andersen positive?  His public image is, well, what is the opposite of clean-cut?  There are jokes about the evolution of his tattoos and jokes about cocaine.  No matter how you look at it though, he has been an important role player for the Heat bringing hustle and intensity off of the bench.

Of course, he is not going to garner much attention, if any, from the major national brands.  But what about niche brands?  I can see Andersen possibly reaching teenage audiences like the X Games and extreme sports, it's just a matter of a company putting themselves out there and taking a big chance.  At the very least, people should know that it's Andersen not Anderson by the end of the series.

Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs, Forward/Guard)
Leonard may not be a name that has made it into the households of the NBA's casual fans, but he's certainly knocking.  Only 21 years old, Leonard is a burgeoning star in the league and making quite the case to take over the reins from the Spurs' trio of thirty-somethings in Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili.

Only two years into his young career, the one thing we know for sure about the forward from San Diego State University is that he's a physical freak.  Standing at 6-foot-7, Leonard has a wingspan of almost 7-foot-2.  Check out this recent episode of ESPN's Sports Science on him.

Leonard has not had his major breakout performance or series yet, but it is on the horizon and approaching quickly.  He plays the game with intensity and heart along with his athleticism.  As the Duncans, and Parkers, and Ginobilis in San Antonio slowly ride into the sunset, look for Leonard to become a team leader and spokesman for the other players.  His marketability has a chance to boom.

LeBron James (Miami Heat, Forward)
I know, I know.  How could the 2013 NBA Finals really impact LeBron James?  James is going for rare territory here.  For his entire career, he has stared comparisons to Michael Jordan straight in the face and done a pretty good job keeping up.  The media may have expected LeBron to have broken the all-time scoring record and have eight rings already, but in reality, he has done a fine job handling the expectations.

He is 28 years old now, still with a nice chunk of his career ahead of him.  If the Heat win this year, then LeBron has two career rings.  Each ring from here is one big step closer to Jordan, and one big step ahead for his brand.

LeBron is a mega-brand of our era.  His Q-Score was 17 as of January this year which is near the top of the NBA.  Also, he has the wins and statistics to back everything up.  He has endorsements with some of the largest national brands in the US like Nike, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Samsung.  Another championship ring will just further cement his place in the sports business realm and take one step closer to Jordan.

Honorable mention: Chris Bosh (Miami Heat forward that may find himself on the trading block) and Tiago Splitter (San Antonio Spurs forward from Brazil that has a chance to continue growing the game in his home country)

At least one player will come out of these NBA Finals with the chance to see their marketability and popularity boom.  Who will it be?  We find out when the NBA Finals tip off tonight on ABC.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

NFL Signs New Deal With Verizon

More frequently than ever people are on the move. People rely on consuming news via nontraditional methods. Included in news is live sports. With the ability of technology, fans can view some of their favorite sports teams on the go with a smartphone. The increased use of smartphones to watch live games is a trend that Verizon decided to capitalize on in 2010.

In 2010, Verizon agreed to a deal with the NFL to live stream games to smartphones. The customers who paid for the service could view games that took place on Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights only. Verizon and the National Football League have agreed to a new deal that will start in 2014 and will expand the amount of games that the consumers will be able to watch.

Verizon will pay the NFL $1 billion over four years to get the rights to air more games on consumers smartphones. The new deal applies to smartphones only, not tablets. Under the new deal, those who sign up for the service will be able to watch Thursday, Sunday and Monday night games. They will also have access to the NFL RedZone channel, NFL Network, all post-season games, and home-market games starting in the 2014 season. Currently Verizon costumers pay $5 a month to watch the NFL games on their smartphones. It is not known what the cost will be after this new deal takes effect.

Final Thought
On a Sunday afternoon during football season, I like to be on my couch watching the games on television. I'm sure most do. For those who can't be in front on the television when the games come on, the smartphone option seems great. I believe this new deal will benefit both the NFL and Verizon. The benefits to the NFL are obvious. They will make a billion dollars over four years by allowing Verizon to get access to the games. In addition to the financial benefits, the NFL will help to spread an already popular sport. For Verizon this deal is a bit of a risk. They are assuming that current trends of people consuming sports in nontraditional ways continues. I think this is a safe bet.