Category Archives: Current Events

Mayweather vs. Pacquiao: A Fight for Money

One of the biggest days in sports history centers around money.

One of the biggest days in sports history centers around money.

Tomorrow looks to be one of the biggest days of the year in sports history with both the Kentucky Derby and Mayweather vs. Pacquiao welterweight championship fight happening within hours of each other. It may be one of the last fights of Mayweather and Pacquiao’s careers and the richest boxing match of all time. It also is horse racing’s biggest day of the year.

It also happens to be one of the biggest days of the year for Uncle Sam.

Starlight Racing’s “Itsaknockout” exclusive sponsorship deal with Mayweather-Pacquiao promotion is all about the money, money, money. The aggressive campaign has an estimated $200 million dollar draw, bringing sponsorship to a whole new level for the sporting world, or the world in general for that matter. Mayweather is expected to receive 60% of the total, no matter if he wins or loses.  If you break this down by minute, assuming the fight goes the distance, that means Mayweather will make $5 million for every minute of ring action Saturday night. Break it down further and he is making $83,333 per second. Whoever wins the Derby will make a mere $2 million.  Still a decent salary for one day!

Ticket sales are also at a record breaking high for any sporting event with prices ranging from $87,000 to $150,000 per ticket. One thing is certain, a lot of people are going to make money off of this fight.

What does this mean for the direction of sponsorships?  Is the sports industry changing? Will sponsorships of the future include multi-million dollar deals for athletes?  Is it all about the money first, and then the actual sports?

We will find out on May 2.

photo credit: US Treasury via photopin (license)

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Who Will Win the Kentucky Derby Social Media Race?

We learned a lot last year when we used EVsdrop to listen in on — and analyze — the social media posts from Churchill Downs during the Kentucky Derby weekend. The infographic below shows some of our key findings from 2014.

Kentucky Derby Infographic (1)

We’re looking forward to seeing what happens on the sponsorship side of this year’s Derby. Will sponsors step up their social game and earn more than 2% of the conversation? Will Vineyard Vines “win” the share of voice race again? Only time (and tweets and ‘grams) will tell.

About EVsdrop: EVsdrop is Performance Research’s social media listening and analysis platform made specifically for the events industry. The tool streams social data originating from a specific geographic location (here we targeted Churchill Downs), and we use our 25+ years of sponsorship research expertise to translate what all that social media buzz means for sponsors and event stakeholders.

For additional information about this EVsdrop study or access to our unique stream of data, please reach out to Julia Burke by email ( or phone (401-848-0111).



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Sponsors Take a Stand

By opposing Indiana’s ruling and speaking out publicly of their support for LGBT inclusion, NCAA has set the bar for sponsors to react.

By opposing Indiana’s ruling and speaking out publicly of their support for LGBT inclusion, NCAA has set the bar for sponsors to react.

The hot topic this week centers on Indiana, but not just the NCAA Final Four that kicks off tomorrow. The controversial Indiana “Religious Freedom” law will allow businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers and the NCAA, among other sports properties including NASCAR, are taking a stand against Indiana’s religious ruling.

In our 2014 IEG presentation we discussed corporate responsibility to social issues and how important it is to take a stand. People may not like what a brand sponsors, how a brand sponsors, or who sponsors and this negative reaction for decisions made can affect brand equity, rankings, and participation. Brands that say something, right away, fare better than brands that ignore the situation. We found that 44% of those surveyed felt sponsors should say something and be engaged in social issues.

We talked about these issues last year regarding both the Sochi Games and the LA Clippers – negative sentiment can be generated in an instant and tarnish a brand faster than it can be promoted. Controversies and reactions to those controversies continue to play a role in a sponsor’s brand health and sustainability.

By opposing Indiana’s ruling and speaking out publicly of their support for LGBT inclusion, NCAA has set the bar for sponsors to react. With the Final Four in full swing, and such strong opposition for this law, sponsors of the NCAA would fare best to issue a statement and quickly. If they can engage in this social issue to increase public sentiment and decrease the risk for negative associations, they may get more out of the Final Four than they imagined.

As the Final Four unfolds, we will be watching sponsors to see if they follow the NCAA’s lead or wait for the storm to pass.

photo credit: <a href=”″>Mason Plumlee | Duke Blue Devils vs. Temple Owls – Dec. 8th, 12</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;

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The Future is Now – And I Met Him!

Figure 1: Credit NY Times

Figure 1: Credit NY Times

While attending IEG2015, the sponsorship industry’s annual trek to mecca, amidst the plethora of inspiring presentations from such thought leaders and trend-setters such Target, adidas, and Heineken, I came across one young college athlete that personified the seismic shift in the way we need to be thinking about the sports and live events of the future.

His name is Blake Soberania ( / twitter: @lots_of_bs) and he is part of Robert Morris University’s e-sports Eagles, and one of the five recipients of the world’s first academic scholarships for e-sports. Take a moment to think about that.

That’s right. E-sports, what we Boomers and Gen-Y & X’ers used to call, (typically in a condescending tone) video games. Universities across the country have e-sports teams that compete in regional and national leagues, host championships, follow official rule-books, and have announcers, sponsors, coaches, fans, and team jerseys… just like their school basketball and soccer teams. Now, add to that list, scholarships and recruiting.

The RMU Eagles are undefeated in the North American Collegiate Championships (24-0). The game of choice is “League of Legends” and the team is under the authority of the university’s athletic director. They have been featured in NY-Times, The Chicago Tribune, and NPR. But what sets them apart from the school’s other student athletes is the popularity of their sport. E-sports / Gaming is a world-wide phenomenon that most of us simply overlook. Not anymore. While speaking with Blake, he learned he and his teammates were about to be interviewed for a feature in Time Magazine. When was the last time you recall a typical college student athlete receiving call from Time Magazine?

Bill Doyle with Blake Soberania at #IEG2015

According to Newzoo, there are an estimated 2.2 billion traditional sports fans (combined) worldwide while the gaming community reels in 1.7 billion fans annually with an estimated increase to 2.1 billion by 2017. That means gaming has nearly as many fans worldwide as all traditional sports, combined.

Traditional sports typically generate 57 percent of revenue from sponsorships and media selling rights and e-sports is anticipated to match that in just a few short years thanks to the growing interest in sponsorship.

Big name brands like Coca-Cola, Intel, Nissan, and Red Bull are the pioneer sponsors of this global gaming epidemic. By providing multimillion dollar sponsorships to the world’s top players, Coca-Cola is attracting a large, passionate online following. Coke Zero also recently partnered with Riot Games to create a series for amateur League of Legend gamers. “We have worked very closely and collaboratively with Riot Games to create a league that delivers true value to the fans and players of the sport, and that begins to build an infrastructure for e-sports that mirrors that of the more traditional sports,” said Matt Wolf, Coca-Cola’s global head of gaming.

And for some perspective, the 2013 League of Legends Challenge World Championships had over 32 million broadcast viewers, and sold out the 18,000 seat Staples Center in minutes. For 2014, held last fall in South Korea, met or exceeded those figures with even deeper engagement among fans.

Not to be missed, the top 10 You-Tube channels are all centered on gaming. to wit, the number one You-Tube celebrity isn’t Beyonce’, Beckham , or Swift it is an unassuming young man named Pewdiepie ( who talks, laughs and comments while playing the latest game releases – with over 35 million subscribers and over 8 billion (yes billion) video views!

With monumental audiences, professional leagues, increased organizational support, multimillion dollar sponsorships, and now university scholarships and recruiting, one question remains – how long before the NCAA needs to step in?

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Cuba: Opportunity in the Midst of Challenges

When it comes to sponsorship, Cuban athletes as well as other aspects of the sports industry, could benefit from the recent renewed ties with the US and the talk of lifting the US trade embargo.

When it comes to sponsorship, Cuban athletes could benefit from the recent renewed ties with the US and the talk of lifting the US trade embargo.

Just three months ago, President Obama’s announcement that the US and Cuba plan to restore diplomatic relations has created a unique opportunity for US businesses, in particular event and sports sponsorship.  Major brands like AMEX, Nike, and Coca-Cola are waiting anxiously on the side lines to take advantage of opportunities as soon as the US trade embargo is lifted. This will not happen immediately or promise to be an easy transition, but offers prospects to change Cuba’s sporting industry.

All professional sports in Cuba were banned in 1962 and with the US trade embargo in place, US Companies have been forbidden from capitalizing on sponsoring all sporting events, Cuban athletes and facilities. Instead of advertising billboards surrounding the ballparks, portraits and slogans of Castro dominate the fields. No sodas or alcohol have been available at sporting events, and local food options have been scarce. Equipment is outdated and falling apart. Athletes keep a meager 20% of their salaries with the government pocketing 80%. Admission to games is free or for a nominal fee – Cubans come to simply enjoy the game.

“Sport is the victim of limitations of the embargo,” said Tomás Herrera Martínez, the director of international relations for Cuba’s sports ministry and a bronze medalist in basketball at the 1972 Munich Olympics. “Sport is one of the main rights of the people, but sometimes there have not been enough resources.”

For a country where sponsorship has been non-existent for the past 50 years, huge benefits exist for all those looking to get involved in Cuba’s sports and events market.  Infrastructure improvements and resource availability for hosting events will become possible. For example, if a financial service like AMEX sponsored the Cuban national baseball team, they could have the opportunity to bring banking basics to a large portion of the country through an in-person experiential form of marketing. IT companies could provide sponsorship and provide access to internet services, a foreign concept to most Cubans as less than 5% of the population has internet access.  Sporting events will help stimulate the economy and provide more jobs for Cubans. This could start as early as 2016 with a few Major League Baseball teams interested in an exhibition game during spring training.

Companies in the food and beverage industry will look to provide sponsorship and make their brands available at all sporting events too. Huge opportunities exist for sports merchandise as well as concessions at the stadiums. Coca-Cola, for example, is anxious to enter one of its last untouched markets. Like Cuba, Coke was banned in Myanmar for many years, and recently obtained its license to operate by creating value for the overall Myanmar economy.  It’s likely that Cuba’s new investors will look to Coca-Cola for guidance on entering a new market with due diligence and responsible business conduct.

Sponsorships could also provide important resources for the athletes, such as updated equipment, proper nutrition, and fair compensation. Just recently it was announced that Cuba’s Athletics Federation is now allowing athletes’ autonomy over sponsorships. The federation’s choice of brand for all athletes, regardless of their preference, has been German owned adidas until 2 years ago when track athletes started wearing Nike. This change has opened a door for US companies to sponsor Cuban athletes and increase their brand awareness in this emerging market. Nike is on the forefront of this change but Under Armor is looking for the next window of opportunity as these sponsorships spread to Cuba’s other most popular sports, baseball and boxing.

Despite doubts and obvious challenges with the Cuban government, economy, and infrastructure, this will be the new journey in sports and event sponsorship for US businesses.  Prospects will just have to be patient.

photo credit: Cuba Havana via photopin (license)
photo credit: Paralympics 2012 – 35 via photopin (license)

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Quicken Loans and Warren Buffett Team Up for Billion-Dollar Hype Machine

March Madness

Quicken Loans and Warren Buffet hope to make a sponsorship splash during this year’s edition of March Madness. Despite their lack of official NCAA sponsorship, the two seem poised to do just that.

March Madness is about to get even wackier this year, but at what cost?

The annual NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament of champions attracted 23.4 million television viewers last year, says CBS Sports.  Each year millions of armchair point guards try their hand at predicting the outcome of the 64-team bracket in local office pools.  However, Quicken Loans and Warren Buffett hope to initiate much more than water cooler bragging rights this year with what could be considered the mother of all guerrilla marketing tactics.

Quicken Loans founder and NBA owner Dan Gilbert announced a $1 billion prize to any fan that correctly predicts the “perfect bracket” before the 2014 rendition of the NCAA tournament.  This prize is being insured by Buffett, the world’s fourth richest man, through one of his companies – Berkshire Hathaway.  Essentially, Quicken   Loans pays Berkshire Hathaway to cover the billion-dollar prize, should someone enter a perfect bracket in the contest.

While the odds are astronomically low, the buzz is deafeningly high.  The question we ponder is how a brand like Quicken Loans can effectively own this considerable  amount of the positive energy surrounding the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball tournament without paying to be one of the organization’s corporate champions and partners.

While Quicken Loans has sponsored the Carrier Classic, an annual college basketball contest turned outdoor spectacle aboard a US Navy aircraft carrier, since 2011, this does not garner them rights to the NCAA Tournament.  With this announcement, president and marketing chief Jay Farner hopes they can earn an even larger place in the heart of college basketball fans.  But at what cost?

It’s tough to argue the virtuosity of Quicken’s marketing ploy.  The buzz generated by the incentive of a billion bucks should make their investment worthwhile, especially since they are paying pennies on the dollar for Berkshire Hathaway’s insurance policy.  In fact, Quicken could emerge as one of the biggest corporate victors come tournament time.

Each March, companies amp up marketing efforts around the NCAA tournament in an attempt to increase brand recognition and drive revenues.  Busiest among them are NCAA’s official Corporate Champions AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola, whose support helps fund 89 different championships and over 400,000 college student athletes nationwide.

Quicken Loans, on the other hand, is not an official NCAA corporate sponsor, thus their promotion isn’t benefiting anyone but themselves, along with a very unlikely new billionaire.

Performance Research studies tell us that modern fans are much more likely to favor a brand when that brand’s sponsorship of an event or campaign adds substantial value to the user-experience, regardless of its “official” status.  In other words, if a promotion can engage consumers on a personal level it becomes considerably more effective.  Thus this billion-dollar bracket contest offers the potential for huge returns for Quicken Loan.

Rather than cough up the dollars necessary to be dubbed an “official” sponsor, Quicken opted for this unconventional move.  However, they will be garnering serious exposure from an event without supporting the organization responsible for putting it on.  There are positive benefits to real people being bypassed by this agreement.

The Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge may ultimately be the best business decision for Quicken.  We’re just not sure that it is the appropriate one.


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International Corporate Partnership Just the First Step in This Man’s Plan to Take the NBA Global


Vivek Ranadive has surrounded himself with BIG talent, including Shaq, to help him transform the Sacramento Kings into a global brand.

Photo –

Rookie NBA owner Vivek Ranadive made a name for himself by revolutionizing Wall Street in the 1980s.  After his Kings announced their first ever international corporate sponsorship for the Sacramento Kings, Ranadive is well on his way to similar transcendence in the NBA, or as he likes to call it: NBA 3.0.

Last week, the Kings announced a partnership with Indian development company The Krrish Group, who recently finalized a multi-franchise agreement to operate Sacramento-native restaurant chain Jimboy’s Tacos in India.  Their sponsorship deal with the Kings will include Jimboy’s promotions during game broadcasts, inside Sleep Train Arena and on all digital platforms.

Ranadive, the first Indian-born majority owner of an NBA franchise, is convinced the greatest growth opportunities for the NBA brand lie abroad, particularly in India.

This partnership is indicative of his success in bringing globally minded companies into the NBA sponsorship fold.

Ranadive’s efforts to increase the Kings’ presence in India include multiple games broadcast in the country, as well as a Hindi-language version of the team’s website.  Deals such as the one with The Krrish Group can only expedite the growth of the Kings as an international brand.

Although this partnership is the first for the Kings with a company based outside the country, it is certainly not the last.  The Indian consumer market has experienced dramatic growth in recent years, a trend that is expected to continue.

“India is fertile ground,” says Sam Amick, who covers the NBA for USA Today. “A big part of what [Ranadive] wants to do fits the NBA’s agenda. It fits what they want to do.”

Ranadive and his team, one that includes future Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, plan to use technology and data to construct a winning product on the court and to establish the Kings as a prominent global brand.  His ambition is to make basketball the premiere international sport of the 21st century.  Technology, according to Ranadive, will drive the success of the NBA abroad.  He plans to expand social networks, giving fans an opportunity to participate and identify with sports in ways that have not been done before.

He calls this philosophy NBA 3.0, a complete alteration of the fan experience, particularly in the developing world.

“When I look at the business of basketball, it’s more than basketball,” he says. “It’s really a social network. You can use technology to capture that network, expand it, engage it, and then, obviously, to monetize it.”

Look for other franchises to adopt similar methods of targeting around the world, presenting sponsorship opportunities for international companies in American professional sports that were never before viable.

Professional teams and leagues are always searching for new revenue streams.  Ranadive hopes to set the precedent for establishing relationships with consumers on a global scale.  Should the NBA 3.0 system of fan interaction succeed, it will serve as the model for breaking into emerging markets such as China and India.

In order to connect with international fans, teams will seek partnerships with international companies to bridge the cultural gap.  The Krrish Group aims to be the first of many to align with the international growth of American professional sports.  In the coming years, similar corporate sponsorships from companies in emerging markets will prove the catalyst to booming global fandom for progressive franchises like the Sacramento Kings.

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