Sportico Transactions: Moves and Mergers Roundup for May 12
Welcome to Sportico’sTransactions wire, a weekly rundown of personnel, partnerships and products across the sports business industry.
USFLPA Names Exec Committee
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The United States Football League Players’ Association has announced its executive committee. The union appointed Dartez Jacobs as president, Devin Gray as vice president, Kristjan Sokoli as treasurer, Jonathan Newsome as financial secretary, and Boogie Roberts as recording secretary. The USFLPA also named Vad Lee, Chris Rowland and Brandon Wright to their board of trustees. Executive officers are responsible for overseeing the business affairs of the USFLPA, negotiating terms of the CBA, securing amendments to enforce player protection and protecting the image of players and their profession.
Fortuna Investments Adds to West Coast Office
Fortuna Investments has named Frostee Rucker vice president of its West Coast office. In this newly created role, Rucker will leverage his extensive network and operating experience to expand Fortuna’s partnerships within the sports and entertainment sector, as well as advance its investment pipeline in current industries of focus, including space and renewable energy. Based in Los Angeles, Rucker will be responsible for developing long-term relationships with entrepreneurs. Prior to joining Fortuna, Rucker played in the NFL for 13 years on four teams and served as representative of the NFL Players Association. After his playing days, Rucker founded Active Legends, a lifestyle brand and clothing company, and established tournament gaming app BlinC Games.
Knight Eady Adds a CEO
Knight Eady is elevating and expanding its business model with the addition of Robyn Felton as the company’s new chief operating officer. Felton’s main focus as COO is to grow the company’s service offerings and develop new business opportunities through channels such as premium seating, hospitality management and more. Felton previously served as the SVP of Premium Hospitality Services for RevelXP, formerly known as the Colonnade Group. Throughout her career, Felton has crafted a playbook on planning and implementing operational processes for sporting events of all kinds, including the College Football Playoff and SEC, Big XII, Big Ten and ACC championships and tournaments.
SPORTFIVE Appoints New President
Global sports marketing agency SPORTFIVE named Seamus O’Brien as president, APAC, a move that will significantly strengthen its business across Asia. O’Brien brings over 30 years of experience in executive positions within the sports industry, including as founder and chairman and CEO of World Sport Group. The hire represents SPORTFIVE’s commitment to growing the agency’s regional business in APAC.
Fanatics Appoints Krishna Rao as Chief Financial Officer of Commerce Business
Fanatics has hired Krishna Rao as the new chief financial officer of Fanatics Commerce, which operates a vertically-integrated platform of digital and physical capabilities for licensed sports merchandise. In his role, Rao will oversee all finance functions and strategic planning activities for the commerce business. Rao joins Fanatics from Cedar, a healthcare payments and patient engagement platform, where he served as the company’s CFO. Previously, he was global head of corporate & business development and led corporate and operations FP&A for Airbnb.
Kansas Athletics and Legends Team Up
Kansas Athletics and Legends have agreed on a comprehensive, long-term partnership focused on reimagining the fan experience as part of the renovation of the Allen Fieldhouse and the transformation of David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. As part of the overarching agreement, Legends will work in partnership with Kansas Athletics to optimize revenue generation and curate experiences for all Jayhawk fans. With a data-driven approach, Legends will oversee premium product development, pricing and sales as part of the projects, as well as manage overall premium seating, ticket sales, annual fund donations, marketing strategy and business intelligence for all ticketed sporting events.
T-Mobile Hooks Up With Red Bull on Cliff Diving Competitions
T-Mobile and Red Bull will integrate 5G-powered camera feeds into the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Boston, bringing viewers closer to the live action. A hybrid mobile network from T-Mobile’s 5G advanced network solutions (ANS) will power high-quality drone and handheld broadcast cameras, delivering aerial footage and first-person views of divers as they complete their acrobatics, exit the water and await their scores. It will also allow the production team on-site to capture high-definition video and transmit it via the cloud to Red Bull’s production center in Austria as it happens, so viewers never miss a beat.
Meiomi Wines, PGA Tour Announce Multi-Year Extension
The PGA Tour and Meiomi Wines have come to a multi-year extension that designates Meiomi Wines as the Official Wine of the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions through 2025. Meiomi Wines will support the partnership through experiential tournament activations, allowing fans to sip and swing at multiple stops on the PGA Tour. They will activate as the Official Wine at additional tournaments throughout the FedExCup season, including the season-ending Tour Championship, where fans can experience Meiomi on-site through their interactive, immersive lounge.
French Soccer Joins with Revolution to Pump Up U.S. Profile
Ligue 1, one of Europe’s most prominent football leagues—featuring global stars such as Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar—plans to expand its presence in the United States, aiming to capture the attention of a rapidly growing soccer fan base. By partnering with Revolution, a sports marketing agency, Ligue 1 seeks to increase exposure, establish strategic partnerships and ultimately enhance awareness. The effort will include a creative campaign focused on promoting the league as an exciting showcase for the best talent in the world.
XLMedia Signs First Revenue-Share Contract in North America with Major Client
XLMedia PLC, the global digital media company with an emphasis on sports and gaming, has signed a hybrid revenue agreement with bet365. The agreement, which combines customer acquisition with longer term retention, forms the basis of a multi-year partnership between the two brands and deepens the commitment both XLMedia and bet365 have made to North American expansion. The agreement will also have responsible gambling at its core. The ability to drive education and engagement, through collaborative content, will ensure that all players have the knowledge and tools to gamble responsibly with bet365.
Unilever Named an Official Sponsor of FIFA Women’s World Cup
FIFA announced that Unilever personal care brands—including Rexona, Dove, Lifebuoy and Lux—will be Official Sponsors of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023. The partnership will run through to 2027 and include the FIFA Men’s World Cup 2026 and the FIFAe Finals. This marks the first time that FIFA has teamed up with personal care brands across women’s, men’s and FIFA esports. Unilever will have the opportunity to supply a total of 80,000 gift packs containing personal care products direct to fans at various FIFA events over the coming years.
WNBA, Meta Extend Multiyear Partnership
The WNBA and Meta announced a multiyear partnership extension that will feature 20 live-streamed games per season on Meta Quest platforms beginning with the 2023 season, which tips off on Friday, May 19. Through the expanded partnership, Meta, an official marketing partner of the WNBA, becomes the Official VR Headset of the league. During the regular season, WNBA live games will be available on Meta Quest VR headsets in Meta Horizon Worlds and in the XTADIUM app. Additionally, WNBA-licensed virtual apparel will soon be available in the Meta Avatars Store. Fans will be able to purchase their favorite WNBA team apparel for their Meta Avatar and showcase it across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and on the Meta Quest VR Platforms.
Las Vegas Aces, Harris Capital Mortgage Group Announce Partnership
The Las Vegas Aces and Harris Capital Mortgage Group (HCMG) have entered a partnership, launching at the beginning of the 2023 WNBA season. The deal will enable HCMG to highlight its services and continue to build on its combined commitment to all segments and regions of the Las Vegas community. Through brand exposure at Aces games, social media content and a donation platform, this partnership will give back through a donation to benefit youth for every charge drawn by Aces players at home games. HCMG will also be an associate partner of the Aces’ annual Heroes of the House game.
INFLCR, The Brandr Group Partner to Create NIL Opportunities for Student Athletes
NIL industry leaders INFLCR and The Brandr Group (TBG) have entered into a long-term agreement to support student-athletes as they develop their personal brands and maximize their earning potential through NIL. INFLCR will become a technology partner of TBG; through this partnership, TBG will use INFLCR’s technology to onboard athletes, disclose transactions and process NIL payments at all schools where there is a crossover between TBG and the entire Teamworks network. The Brandr Group represents student-athletes at over 80 colleges and universities and specializes in developing co-branded licensing and active use opportunities using group player rights. While the official partnership with INFLCR is new, TBG has utilized INFLCR to send thousands of royalty payments to athletes at over 40 schools. TBG will send royalty payments through INFLCR to all of their client institutions, and qualifying athletes will receive one consolidated 1099 form from all of their TBG payments at the end of the year.
Goal Becomes Official Media Partner of The Soccer Tournament
Footballco’s global soccer media brand, Goal, has been named the official media partner of The Soccer Tournament (TST), a 32-team, seven-versus-seven, winner-takes-all tournament with a $1 million prize being played in the U.S. this summer. Goal’s support for the tournament will cover both the build-up and the tournament. During TST, Goal will cover the action both on the pitch and on the sidelines across its web, app and social channels with supporting content distributed across the whole Footballco network. Goal’s coverage will include streaming games live outside of America and Mexico across Goal social channels. Goal will also be creating TST content in line with its player-led and fan-led video strategies, applying existing and popular video formats to feature the stars of the tournament and the fans in and around the stands.
Ripken Baseball Acquires Sports Force Parks
Ripken Baseball has acquired Sports Force Parks at Cedar Point Sports Center in Sandusky, Ohio, and will take over the operation beginning with the 2023 season, which is underway with over 50 tournaments on its schedule. The acquisition raises Ripken Baseball’s total number of youth sports complexes to six nationwide and moves the company beyond baseball and softball for the first time. The facility comprises multi-purpose fields with the capacity of 11 baseball/softball synthetic turf diamonds or eight full-size soccer fields that are convertible to create up to 21 youth soccer fields, in addition to one ADA-accessible field for adaptive sports. As part of the acquisition of Sports Force Parks, Ripken Baseball also assumes control of youth baseball tournament operator 17 Tournaments, and travel planner Oakwood Lodging Group.
Apex Capital Invests in PlaySight
Apex Capital has invested in Israeli sports tech company PlaySight, whose SmartCourt AI technology powers athletes, coaches, teams and leagues all over the world with its connected camera platform. Its technology is used by a variety of teams and institutions, including tennis federations, pickleball and padel facilities, NBA and MLB teams, and others. The tech ranges from automated production and live streaming, video replay (VAR LIGHT), pro level analytics and coaching tools, to a live and on demand sports OTT channel.
PGA Tour Adds Event in Myrtle Beach for 2024
A new PGA Tour tournament, the Myrtle Beach Classic, sponsored by Visit Myrtle Beach, will debut in 2024 along South Carolina’s Grand Strand at the Dunes Golf and Beach Club, a Robert Trent Jones-designed course. The four-year agreement establishes the event as part of the PGA Tour’s 2024 FedExCup regular season as a full-field additional event played the same week as a designated event. The tournament will feature a purse of $3.9 million with 300 FedExCup points awarded to the champion. Tournament dates for the Myrtle Beach Classic will be announced at a later date along with the full 2024 FedExCup schedule. The 2024 PGA Tour schedule season begins in January with the FedExCup regular season, followed by three FedExCup Playoffs events in August and the FedExCup fall starting in September.
Angel City FC, Klarna Launch Capsule Collection
Angel City Football Club (ACFC) and Founding Partner Klarna, a leading global payments provider and shopping service, announced the launch of an exclusive merchandise capsule collection in an effort to bring more fan merchandise to women’s sports. Working closely on design and production with the Suay Sew Shop, one of the leaders in sustainable fashion and advocacy in LA, the three-item collection—a windbreaker, bucket hat, and fanny pack—is made from 100% upcycled and recycled materials. In collaboration with Klarna, Angel City FC will continue to call upon its network to donate clothing to the Downtown Women’s Center throughout the year.
Former NFL Player Forming First-Ever Beach Football League
Tully Banta-Cain, two-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots, is creating the Beach Football League, a first-of-its-kind tackle football event and league to be played on sand. The Beach Football League will kick off in February 2024 at a surprise location, following a draft and launch party in Las Vegas the week of Super Bowl LVIII. Professional and amateur football players will be invited to compete at beaches across the U.S. and abroad starting June 2024 and continuing yearly. The Beach Football League’s inaugural event will feature notable musical guests and additional entertainment. Sponsorship bids for securing exclusive categories are now being accepted.
Digital App myNILpay Launches for NCAA Athletes
A new app called myNILpay allows fans to send money to any collegiate athlete via Name, Image and Likeness (NIL). With myNILpay, a patent-pending platform, college sports fans have a legal method to directly pay student-athletes, providing an opportunity for athletes in all divisions and all sports, both male and female, to monetize their NIL rights. The platform complies with all NCAA requirements; For every transaction, the fan will receive a unique digital asset featuring the athlete’s name and digital signature. The student-athlete’s digital signature on the digital asset fulfills NCAA quid-pro-quo requirements. The student athlete does not need to take any other action.
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