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Winners and Losers--November 25, 2013



Winner: The Charlotte Bobcats signed a yearlong sponsorship deal with Mercedes-Benz that has the carmaker funding the team’s rebranding campaign. The Bobcats earlier this year received approval from the NBA to change their name back to the Hornets. The team’s new logo and colors will be unveiled after the season.


Loser: The short-sleeved, “big logo” Adidas jerseys that 10 NBA teams will wear on Christmas Day continue to be panned by critics. The sleeved jerseys, which teams and the league hope will result in increased merchandise sales, could become more prevalent after the Christmas games.


What it means: The Bobcats aren’t allowed to use the Hornets name in promotional materials until after the season, so Mercedes is hosting five “Buzz City” nights at Time Warner Cable Arena this season. This is believed to be the first time in NBA history that a company has sponsored a team’s rebranding campaign.




Winner: The Cleveland Browns unveiled a $120 million renovation plan to upgrade the fan experience at FirstEnergy Stadium. The renovation will take place over two years, with new scoreboards and video screens installed in 2014 and improvements to the concession areas coming in 2015.


Loser: Even as NFL teams claim that their games are sellouts, empty seats are becoming the norm this season for several franchises. So far on the year, 10 teams are playing to stadiums that are less than 95% full, up from just five teams in 2008. The in-stadium fan experience is to blame for decreasing attendance.


What it means: While other teams have struggled at the gate, the Browns actually rank amongst the NFL’s top ten teams in attendance on the year. Cleveland is wise to improve the in-stadium experience while attendance is strong, as opposed to waiting for fans to stop coming to the stadium and fighting to draw them back.




Winner: NASCAR is seeking $12-15 million annually for the title sponsorship to its secondary series, according to Tripp Mickle & Terry Lefton of SportsBusiness Journal. The asking price is a 20% increase over what NASCAR receives from Nationwide, which decided against renewing their deal beyond next season.


Loser: Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone said that the series next year would not race in Mexico or add a second U.S. race in New Jersey. F1 has been looking at both markets, but the soonest either will get a race is 2015. Mexico hasn’t held a F1 grand prix since 1992.


What it means: Adding another North American race, whether in New Jersey of Mexico, would help boost interest in F1. Though there’s an early season race in Montreal, the Austin Grand Prix, which was held last week, doesn’t attract nearly as much attention as it should.


College Sports


Winner: Realignment within college sports has resulted in football coaches seeing their salaries rise. The average head coach at major D-1 schools will make $1.81 million this season, up 10% from a year ago and up 90% since 2006. Alabama’s Nick Saban is the highest-paid coach, making $5.5 million annually.


Loser: Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center had its bonds downgraded by Moody’s Investors Service, which cited “persistent risks to the arena’s ability to pay off” its debt. The downgrade is putting on hold the arena’s potential refinancing for a lower interest rate that could save it millions of dollars a year.


What it means: Conference realignment has resulted in lucrative TV deals, which means more money for schools and coaches. All of the coaches in the SEC, arguably the most successful conference, make at least $2 million per year.




Winner: The cornerstone of the Atlanta Braves’ plan to move to Cobb County is a mixed-use development project located next to their proposed $672 million stadium. The Braves’ development project will include 1 million square feet of residential, office space, retail, restaurants, and a hotel.


Loser: Small-market MLB teams want to change the player posting system, which allows big-market clubs to put up tens of millions of dollars for the right to negotiate with Japanese free agents. One proposal is to have a team’s posting fee count against their salary cap figure.


What it means: The Braves studied similar mixed-use development projects near ballparks in St. Louis, San Diego, and Denver before announcing their own plans. Mixed-use projects are becoming increasingly important for sports teams as a way to generate revenue from fans before they enter the stadium or arena.


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