Morning Consult Sports: KPMG, Amstel Light Cut Ties With Phil Mickelson Over Saudi Golf League Comments


Essential sports industry news & intel to start your day.
February 23, 2022
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Electric Feel
Automakers put the pedal to the metal in their promotion of their electric offerings during Super Bowl LVI last week. In fact, seven of the nine car commercials during the big game were for electric vehicles. Lisa Whalen, Morning Consult’s lead automotive and mobility analyst, writes that the relatively positive consumer response to those ads indicates that sentiment toward these types of vehicles among American consumers is on the rise. They’re Electric: Automakers Resonated With EV-Interested Consumers at the Super Bowl


Top Stories

  • Professional services firm KPMG and beer brand Amstel Light each ended their sponsorship of golfer Phil Mickelson following the publication of his comments justifying his support of the Saudi Arabia-backed Super Golf League despite the country’s human rights abuses. Mickelson apologized for his comments, which he claimed were meant to be off the record, and said he has given his corporate partners the option to pause or end their relationships with him. (Sportico)
  • Former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores and his attorneys said he forfeited the millions of dollars remaining on his contract by declining to sign a two-year non-disparagement agreement presented to him by team owner Stephen Ross upon his dismissal last month, instead opting to file his discrimination lawsuit against the NFL and several teams. The Dolphins said it is “categorically false” that Ross tried to get Flores to sign an NDA, but Flores’ attorneys pushed back by posting screenshots to Twitter of what they claim are the draft agreement and payment termination notice. (ESPN)
  • D.C. United signed a kit sponsorship deal with Blockchain technology company XDC Network that sources familiar with the arrangement said runs for three years and is worth $6 million annually. The agreement represents a raise from the $4 million that United received from its previous uniform sponsor, technology company Leidos, and makes it the second club in MLS to have a crypto-related company as a shirt sponsor after Inter Miami. (The Athletic)

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What Else You Need to Know


Disney Ad Sales Dunks NCAA Women’s Hoops Tournament

Jon Lafayette, Broadcasting & Cable

Disney Advertising Sales said it has sold all of the commercial inventory for the 2022 NCAA Division 1 Women’s Basketball Tournament. Disney Ad Sales said the tournament drew 14 sponsors, including Capital One, which returns as the presenting sponsor.


WFAN’s ‘Carton & Roberts’ reclaim lead over Michael Kay in first month of winter book

Andrew Marchand, New York Post

After losing the fall book to ESPN New York’s “The Michael Kay Show,” Carton and Roberts are in the midst of a comeback. The duo took the first month of the winter book with a share of 6.1 to Kay’s 4.9, according to Nielsen Audio Ratings.


Ten Startups Selected for Comcast NBCU SportsTech Accelerator

George Winslow, TV Tech

Comcast has selected 10 startups for the second class of the Comcast NBCUniversal SportsTech Accelerator. The PGA Tour and WWE have been added as advisors, joining NBC Sports, Sky Sports, GOLF, Comcast Spectacor, NASCAR, U.S. Ski & Snowboard, USA Cycling and USA Swimming.


Lawmakers seek to end lucrative tax breaks for pro stadium construction

Liz Clarke, The Washington Post

Allegations of widespread sexual harassment in the Washington Commanders workplace and dissatisfaction with the NFL’s response have revived congressional interest in eliminating a lucrative tax break that professional sports teams routinely use to help fund new stadiums. Three Democrats reintroduced the “No Tax Subsidies for Stadiums Act,” which would do just that, effective immediately upon enactment.


The N.F.L. draft scouting combine will loosen its virus restrictions over fears of a player boycott.

Emmanuel Morgan and Jenny Vrentas, The New York Times

The National Invitational Camp, the organization that operates the N.F.L.’s annual scouting combine, relaxed Covid-19 restrictions for draft prospects scheduled to attend next week’s event in Indianapolis amid fears of a potential boycott. More than 300 players are expected to attend the weeklong event.


Judicial approval of NFL race-norming fix coming ‘any day,’ but concerns remain

Daniel Kaplan, The Athletic

The NFL at first fought the lawsuit filed in 2020, arguing race norming was standard practice for neurological testing. Under public pressure, and following concern expressed by Judge Anita Brody, the parties went back into negotiations and reached a preliminary resolution, which is awaiting the judge’s approval.


Commanders concede, amend criticized logo to avoid confusion over Super Bowl-winning seasons

Zac Al-Khateeb, The Sporting News

The Commanders are amending their much-criticized crest — part of the worst-kept rebranding secret in sports — to avoid confusion over the franchise’s championship seasons. Washington conceded that the crest was confusing, and updated it to reflect the seasons the franchise won the Super Bowl — not the calendar year in which the games occurred.


Bengals to lose one of their biggest corporate sponsors

Liz Engel, Cincinnati Business Courier

The Cincinnati Bengals will lose one of their largest corporate sponsors this month, and the Covid-19 pandemic — not the team’s heartbreaking loss in Super Bowl LVI — is largely to blame as the organizations mutually part ways. The move ends a seven-year, $2 million annual contract with the team.


How The NBA Uses Its Data On Referees

Ben Dowsett, FiveThirtyEight

Who has access to it? How is it used within the NBA’s officiating department, both for training and advancement purposes? How involved can NBA teams be in this process, and how do team decision-makers feel about it?


Little progress toward collective bargaining agreement as talks continue between MLB, MLBPA

Jesse Rogers, ESPN

Day 2 of in-person meetings Tuesday between Major League Baseball and the MLBPA once again produced little progress toward a new collective bargaining agreement while the league actually viewed the negotiations as a step back. The union cut down on its proposal for players to enter arbitration after two years, but countered that by asking for more in its minimum salary structure.


Justin Turner on the blockchain? An inside look at MLB’s next-gen NFT strategy and the risks it faces

Bill Shea, The Athletic

Major League Baseball, if it ever settles its owners’ strike, plans to wade further into the rapidly growing non-fungible token trend in 2022 and beyond. MLB and Candy Digital are not yet talking specifics about upcoming NFT projects, but the expectation is more digital player cards and special deals to commemorate milestones, major events, history, etc.


Former Ducks GM Bob Murray joins Flames as scout: Sources

Eric Stephens, The Athletic

Former Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray, who resigned from his position on Nov. 10 after the team investigated accusations of improper professional conduct with players and staff, has joined the Calgary Flames as a scout, sources said.

College Sports

D-I Council meeting to set stage for NIL report

Michael Smith, Sports Business Journal

The D-I Council has been given roughly two months to file a report on the effects of NIL on schools and athletes. The council will meet Wednesday for the first time to decide what process they’ll follow to research and write the report.


Marshall University files lawsuit against Conference USA

Grant Taylor, The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

Marshall University filed a lawsuit against Conference USA in Cabell County Circuit Court on Tuesday in an effort to facilitate its early exit from the conference. Marshall is seeking relief in the form of a declaratory judgment and temporary, preliminary and permanent injunctions against Conference USA in proceeding with arbitration.


With SEC assist, Arkansas has record profit in FY 2021

Paul Gatling, Talk Business & Politics

The University of Arkansas athletic department reported a 7.3% revenue increase during the 2021 fiscal year and an overall department surplus of a record $20.8 million. A financial bailout from the Southeastern Conference (SEC) is primarily responsible.


How Mississippi State athletics managed its revenue and expenses in a pandemic-defined fiscal year

Andy Kostka, Mississippi Clarion Ledger

The Mississippi State athletic department weathered the first full fiscal year under the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic by cutting costs in several areas while receiving a major boost from the SEC. Mississippi State’s total operating revenue for the 2021 fiscal year, which runs July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 was $112,890,415.


MLS is ‘bullish’ on Las Vegas for expansion; D.C. United trades Júnior Moreno’s rights

Steven Goff, The Washington Post

MLS is aiming to finalize a deal this spring for Las Vegas to become its 30th team, Commissioner Don Garber said Tuesday. The city has been atop MLS’s list for some time, and should an agreement be reached, it would have a presence in three of the top five sports leagues in the United States.


Charlotte FC nets Coca-Cola Consolidated as soft-drink sponsor

Erik Spanberg, Charlotte Business Journal

Coca-Cola Consolidated Inc. has signed on as Charlotte FC’s official soft-drink sponsor, the Major League Soccer club confirmed today. In addition to Coke becoming the team’s soft drink, sister brand Dasani will be the only water sold inside the stadium.


UEFA under pressure over Gazprom sponsorship as Ukraine crisis escalates

Samuel Agini et al., Financial Times

UEFA is under mounting pressure over its ties to Russian state energy company Gazprom after Vladimir Putin’s decision to order troops into Ukraine. The crisis has forced UEFA to consider moving this season’s Champions League final from St Petersburg.


Liverpool Inks With U.S.-Based Cloud Storage Company

Asli Pelit, Sportico

English Premier League powerhouse Liverpool F.C. is launching a partnership with a Boston-based cloud storage company, Wasabi Technologies. Nearly half of EPL clubs have similar partnerships with tech firms, but most are from Europe.


Churchill Downs Inc. purchases Colonial Downs

Matt Hegarty, Daily Racing Form

Churchill Downs Inc. has reached an agreement to purchase “substantially all” of the assets owned by Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, including Colonial Downs in Virginia and its off-track betting network. The transaction, which also includes casinos in upstate New York and in Iowa, will cost $2.45 billion.


Andretti team adds quantum computing partner

Marshall Pruett, RACER

Under a new multi-year agreement with Zapata Computing, Andretti’s four-car Honda-powered team receives “brand sponsorship and a multi-million-dollar agreement to deploy and leverage Zapata’s platform, Orquestra, in search of race day success with advanced analytics and quantum techniques.”

Golf and Tennis

Presidents Cup announces creation of Charlie Sifford Centennial Cup, featuring top HBCU programs

Brendan Porath, Golf Digest

Presidents Cup organizers announced on Tuesday the creation of the Charlie Sifford Centennial Cup, a one-day team match play event featuring top golf teams from HBCUs. Quail Hollow in Charlotte, site of this year’s Presidents Cup, will host the event on August 29th.


Justin Thomas partners with Jack Nicklaus to build new Panther National course in Florida

Jason Lusk, Golfweek

Justin Thomas is throwing his hat into the course design ring, as the 14-time PGA Tour winner joins forces with Jack Nicklaus to build Panther National in Palm Beach County, Florida.


N.C. State plans on-campus esports facility in Raleigh

Trent Murray, Sports Business Journal

N.C. State has received $16 million from the state government for the construction of an on-campus esports facility. NCSU Vice Chancellor for IT Marc Hoit said that $12 million of the funding will be used for the venue itself, with $4 million allocated to create a mobile arena.


Caesars Climbs After Announcing Cutback in Sports Betting Spend

Christopher Palmeri, Bloomberg

Caesars Entertainment Inc. jumped in after hours trading after the company said it would sharply reduce advertising spending for sports betting after accomplishing its customer acquisition goals. Caesars quickly captured the No. 1 spot in the New York mobile sports betting market after the state allowed such wagers last month.


Amtrak taps Source Communications for return to sports sponsorship

Terry Lefton, Sports Business Journal

Some five years after Amtrak exited as a longtime sports marketing brand, it’s returning to the fold. After a review, Amtrak has quietly named Hackensack-based Source Communications as its sports agency of record.

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