Around the Horn: May 24th

Fewer people tuned in to watch last Saturday’s Preakness Stakes on NBC than last year’s race (viewership declined by 8%). Many had actually expected to see a ratings increase with the stage set for another potential showdown between Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another and runner up Bodemeister, but apparently the budding rivalry was not enough to attract more eyeballs.

It isn’t all bad news, however, for NBC.  According to Fang’s Bites (a website that analyzes sports media), overall viewership for the Preakness Stakes on NBC is up an average of 63% in the last 11 years compared to the previous 8 years’ of race coverage on ABC.  NBC should also expect to see a nice boost for its coverage of the Belmont Stakes.  Interest in the race has spiked as I’ll Have Another pursues the coveted Triple Crown.  According to USA Today, since 2000, the eight Belmont races without a Triple Crown candidate averaged 4% of U.S. TV households while the 4 races with horses contending to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 averaged 10.1% of households.  Expect a nice number for NBC on June 9th…

Many have suggested a correlation exists between the National Football League’s rise in popularity and the explosive growth of fantasy football.  If a correlation does indeed exist, should we see a boom in the popularity of fishing as a spectator sport?  Bassmaster’s website features a fantasy fishing league and it appears as though thousands of fishing enthusiasts are actively participating…great idea by Bassmaster to drive traffic to the site while giving fans a reason to consistently interact with the brand.

According to a recent USA Today report, the National Guard spent nearly $33 million in NASCAR sponsorship fees in fiscal 2011.  The same report also suggests the National Guard spent $20 million in professional fishing and $90 million overall in motor sports in 2011 and 2012…this apparently led the government to enact an effort to ban all military spending on sports sponsorship.  If the government succeeds, how significant will the impact be on the industry?  Just ask Dale Earnhardt Jr. (sponsored by the National Guard), Brad Keselowski (U.S. Navy), or Ryan Newman (sponsored by the U.S. Army) who collectively risk losing millions…

Despite what is becoming an increasingly crowded space, Gatorade continues to dominate the competition.  A story that appeared recently on bloomberg.com suggests the sports/energy drink market was $41.5 billion in 2011, representing the fastest growing segment in the beverage industry (up 14% from 2010).  According to the article, Gatorade did $13.8 billion in sales last year, capturing 33% of the market. That’s impressive.

Today’s parting shot:  The NY Rangers Gnome (@NYRGnome) started a Twitter account at the beginning of NHL playoffs. It already has 5,250 more followers than I do…

Around the Horn: April 6th

Remember the two-foot-long hotdogs being sold at Rangers stadium this year (aka the “boomstick”)?  ESPN reports they sold 191 of those monsters on opening day.

Brewers fans will see a familiar face in many of the team’s TV spots this season.  Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports the Brew Crew will feature Packers’ star QB Aaron Rodgers in several of the ads…interesting decision to bring a sports hero from a different local professional team into the team’s marketing plans.

From the Twitterverse (via @TVSportsratings): “Swamp People (4.5 mil viewers) had a larger audience than The Masters, both NBA games on TNT, 2 MLB games on ESPN2, NHL on NBCS.“  Am I the only one surprised by this?

First it was Tebow Mania, then Linsanity…now apparently three Giants fans are competing for the trademark rights to “Tim-Sanity.”  Sure seems like overkill to me but not sure Tim-Sanity will catch on anyway…wishful thinking perhaps?

Vanilla Ice performed at half-time of a recent Minnesota Timberwolves game…still trying to figure out if the game sold out but love the effort from the Wolves’ staff to attract a crowd.  Attendance at the Target Center is up over 13% on the season, best in the NBA.

Around the Horn: March 7th

A few observations about the press conference announcing the end of the Peyton Manning era that just wrapped up:

  • After the ugly divorce between Brett Favre and the Packers a few years ago and LeBron‘s contentious departure from Cleveland two summers ago, Colts owner Jim Irsay and Manning just showed that difficult, emotional situations like this can indeed be handled with class.
  • Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance received a ton of exposure during the press conference (the company name was featured on the backdrop).  At the start of the press conference, they had less than 50 followers on Twitter…twenty minutes later (and at the time of this post), they had over 200.
  • From a PR perspective, Jim Irsay managed to effectively spin the decision as doing “what was best for Peyton.”  Coupled with the announcement that no Colts player would ever wear Manning’s #18 again, the franchise is clearly motivated to begin the damage control process in an effort to appease a fan base that seems largely disappointed in the decision to release the iconic QB.

Interesting sponsorship news coming out of NASCARMatt Kenseth wins Daytona 500, yet a report on nascar.com suggests he and his team are still seeking sponsors for over 40% of their remaining races.  Apparently 15 of the 36 races that Kenseth will compete in are still not sponsored.

From the Twitterverse, via @FanCostX: “Who’s the team to beat in the #MLB? #Angels definitely reloaded this year. Their tix avg last yr was only $34. MLB Avg was $46. #SportsBiz“  Not sure how much prices will increase this year, but can only imagine the combination of more potential wins and addition of star power of Pujols will drive prices upward.

Minor league baseball’s Lakewood BlueClaws announced that, in an effort to improve the overall fan experience, the team will cap attendance at 8,000 fans per game this year.  The strategy, aimed at shortening lines at concessions stands and bathrooms, is an interesting one but could also provide an effective means for driving demand for tickets.

In an effort to generate publicity and drive traffic to the Yahoo! Sports website, the popular search engine is offering $5 million to any fan who correctly picks a perfect March Madness bracket. With so many options for fans to fill out brackets online, this is a great way for Yahoo! to separate themselves from competitors like ESPN.com and CBSsportsline.com.  For those of you curious about the odds, there are about 9.2 quintillion possible combinations (according to a tweet from CNBC’s Darren Rovell).

Around the Horn: Feb 27th

Well…the reviews are in.  Unfortunately for the Academy Awards and the NBA’s All-Star Weekend, many of them aren’t very flattering.  Media critics are calling last night’s Academy Awards show “predictable”, “drab”, and “uninspiring.”  Many have also been tough on host Billy Crystal’s performance.  NBA All-Star Saturday night has also received a lot of criticism, the Sprite Slam Dunk contest in particular.  Fans weren’t the only ones disappointed as many of the league’s players took to Twitter to voice disappointment.  Even Kevin Durant, one of the NBA’s biggest stars, says it is time for the league’s elite (LeBron James, Derrick Rose, D. Wade) to join the competition.  For those keeping score, CBSSports has a great recap of player reactions on Twitter.  That said, both events managed to draw a larger television audience than last year…based on the early criticism, however, I have to wonder if that’s a good thing.  Seems there has been a lot of debate in the media for ways to improve the events.  I guess we will find out next year whether event organizers were listening.

Looking for a way to measure the loyalty of NASCAR fans?  Look no further than yesterday’s television ratings.  TNT ratings for NBA All-Star game barely beat Fox’s Daytona 500 coverage…of a race that didn’t happen because of an uncooperative mother nature.  I imagine tonight’s ratings will be pretty impressive and NASCAR, Fox and their sponsors/advertisers will be thankful for the rain delay.

Over the weekend, Nike announced plans to finally release the much anticipated Jeremy Lin sneaker.  The shoe will reportedly be available only online at NikeID.com.  The price point?  $130.

Outback Steakhouse gained publicity this weekend when the popular restaurant chain launched a promotion tying it to NASCAR just in time for the Daytona 500.  The restaurant will be giving away a free “Bloomin’ Onion” appetizer if the number 39 car (driven by Ryan Newman and sponsored by Outback) finishes in the top ten of ANY Sprint Cup race this season.