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Wednesday, December 22, 2021

I’m no hoops fan, but I appreciate a good in-game catchphrase as much as anyone.

To wit: Declaring a 3-point shot attempt as “shooting from international waters”.

I like it. Gives the trey-line, and everything beyond it, a proper remoteness. Along with a loose anything-goes undercurrent

A good switch-up from the old Marv Albert standard “from way-down-town!” declaration of this longshot. The maritime analogy probably has been in use for both NBA and college coverage for a long while. But again, since I don’t follow the hardcourt, it’s new to me. And a happy discovery.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/22/2010 05:17pm
Category: Basketball, Wordsmithing
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Saturday, December 11, 2021

This week’s purchase of the New Orleans Hornets by the National Basketball Association is the third such franchise-buyback in recent memory:

- The Phoenix Coyotes were bought out of bankruptcy by the National Hockey League last year; they’re still owned by the league, although a sale to Matthew Hulsizer seems imminent.

- Back in 2002, Major League Baseball bought the Montreal Expos, a prelude to eventually selling the team to investors who re-launched the franchise as the Washington Nationals.

Are we seeing a trend? Each of these buybacks were defensive, last-resort moves. Contraction was mentioned in each instance, and is being bandied about by the NBA even now (although more as sabre-rattling versus its upcoming collective bargaining fight with its players union). While brand value and product integrity are important enough for the NHL, NBA, and MLB to persuade member owners to contribute money to pool together such troubled-team buybacks, you have to wonder when owners will get tired of footing such bills.

Oh, and the missing major-pro league here? The National Football League, of course. The NFL has yet to experience a situation where a franchise couldn’t attract eager buyers. That doesn’t translate into stability — teams have switched cities a lot, the Los Angeles vacancy is an ongoing issue, and the looming player lockout could dent a few franchises. But to this point, it’s telling that the NFL hasn’t had to engage in such bailouts.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/11/2021 05:45pm
Category: Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, SportsBiz
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Thursday, July 08, 2021

More than a year ago, we were expecting future sports-transaction news to be delivered directly from the players, via social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook.

But when you’re LeBron James, and you’re the preeminent free agent of this 2010 National Basketball Association offseason… Well, why settle for a measly Twitter account when ESPN will give you an hour of airtime to announce “The Decision”?

Sources told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard that representatives for James contacted the network, proposing the idea of a dedicated special. The sources said James’ representatives requested they be allowed to sell sponsorship for the broadcast, and ESPN agreed.

“Due to the unprecedented attention and interest surrounding LeBron’s decision, we have decided to make this announcement on national television,” James’ business manager, Maverick Carter, said on lebronjames.com.

Old media trumps new media once again, when it comes to the monumental events. And indeed, James announced his choice of the Miami Heat tonight, a moment that was blunted only slightly by the leaks earlier that indicated he had decided on south Florida.

Considering how commoditized other aspects of sports business have become, having a marquee player build a television special (really, an advertising vehicle) around his contract signing is a natural. The NFL Draft is a major offseason viewing event, and “free agent frenzy” coverage is a major staple in all major-pro sports media (including college signing days and the like). Since the audience interest continues to grow, we can expect future dedicated event coverage like this, stemming from the players or the teams/leagues. It’s a significant step in that a player like James now commands enough clout to control the message so thoroughly, and on an enviable national-broadcasting stage.

The only thing, regarding James’ @kingjames Twitter handle: Typical of many celebrity accounts, he’s amassed a few hundred thousand followers while following nobody. A deft move, simultaneous with James’ live announcement on ESPN, would have been that zero-following changing to a 1 — with that one being the team he finally chose. Perfect orchestration, and a nod to the online fanbase. Maybe for the next mega-free agent circus, next NBA offseason.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 07/08/2021 11:54pm
Category: Basketball, Social Media Online, SportsBiz, TV
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Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Both the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association are enjoying double-digit percentage-point increases in ratings this month, and there’s an interesting contributing factor:

Ratings for major sports events have been strong this year, including the record set for the most-watched Super Bowl. TV executives think it’s no coincidence the increases coincide with Americans’ rapid adoption of high definition television, which is very popular with sports fans.

An estimated 52 percent of American homes had HDTVs and were actively using them, according to a Nielsen study done in April. That compares with 33 percent a year earlier and 17 percent in 2008, Nielsen said.

A sharper picture yields a more engaged sports-fan audience, I guess. My own experience bears this out: I’d be watching sports anyway, but the HD coverage encourages me to watch more. And in instances where, for instance, there are multiple NHL games being broadcast in my area, I’ll opt for the HD broadcasts over the ones that are in standard-definition.

HD video is available online, so that alone doesn’t insulate television providers from Web competition. But it does reinforce sports programming as a key hook for customer retention.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 06/09/2021 11:37pm
Category: Basketball, Hockey, TV
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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The next time that a big-league sports franchise owner bleats about how much money he’s supposedly losing, keep in mind this statement from Ted Leonsis, the soon-to-be king of the Washington-Baltimore sports market:

“Obviously when you control two major-league teams in a four-team market, and both winter teams, you’re thinking about bringing all that together.” And [sport-business executive Steve Greenberg] was mindful of the way sports franchises have performed as investments; barring mismanagement, they only go up. To which Leonsis, who was among the largest private owners of AOL stock before its ill-advised merger with Time Warner, can attest: “I don’t have a single investment that performed as well or better in the last 10 years than my sports teams,” he says.

Bingo. The two teams in question are the NBA Washington Wizards and NHL Washington Capitals. And the dollar value only goes up in baseball and football. So much for the perpetual poverty claims of the sports moguls.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/11/2021 11:53pm
Category: Basketball, Hockey, SportsBiz
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Thursday, August 13, 2021

Once again, I must cite Bill Simmons’ bold prediction on the future of sports journalism, as published by ESPN The Magazine:

…I see a day when the following sequence will be routine: Player demands trade on blog; team obliges and announces deal on Twitter; player thanks old fans, takes shots at old team and gushes about new team on Facebook. We will not need anyone to report this, just someone to recap it. Preferably with links.

Only three months after writing that, Simmons is seeing his vision come true. At least a healthy chunk of it. Because today, the Tampa Bay Lightning followed that social-media script by teasing, and then formally announcing, a player trade via Twitter.

Granted, the deal was hardly earth-shaking: Underachieving forward Evgeny Artyukin to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for winger Drew Miller and a third-round draft pick in 2010. It’s certainly nowhere near the magnitude of tonight’s NFL news about Michael Vick signing with Philadelphia (which was delivered through traditional media). But it does demonstrate a willingness by a National Hockey League club to bypass the established channels with high-level news that’s especially relevant for fans. And it’s significant that this was an announcement directly from an NHL front office, versus the roundabout way in which the NBA’s Shaquille O’Neal learned about his trade, through his tweetstream.

Suddenly, social media outlets are official major-pro sports communication organs. The players are likewise utilizing online media. The future’s now. And while sports reporters aren’t out of a job (and won’t be, given that there’ll always be dirt to dig up that will never be tweeted or permalinked by the primaries), they increasingly will be competing to be heard, and will have to refine their message accordingly.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/13/2009 09:45pm
Category: Basketball, Football, Hockey, Media, Social Media Online
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Thursday, July 16, 2021

Over the past couple of weeks, a trifecta of summertime sports curiosities took place and were widely reported:

- First, NBA superstar LeBron James gets dunked on by Xavier University sophomore Jordan Crawford during a pick-up basketball game (and fueled the fire by having the video confiscated to avoid embarrassment over this “Dunkgate”).

- Then, NFL quarterback Philip Rivers similarly gets outdueled by a high-school player during throwing drills at a football camp.

- And most recently, Wimbledon champion Serena Williams got schooled by Madison Keys, a 14-year-old girl, in an exhibition tennis singles event.

See a pattern here? What’s next, big-league baseball, hockey, golf, etc. professionals getting beat-downs from amateur-camp teenagers?

Call me a cynic, but I smell a rat. Twice is a coincidence, three times is a trend. Somehow, some way, there’s a corporate marketing campaign tying together these supposedly isolated incidents. It’s probably Nike, or Gatorade, promoting a David-beats-Goliath theme thanks to the help of the right sneaker/sugarwater/whatever. I wouldn’t even be surprised if SpikeTV’s idiotic “Pros vs. Joes” were behind this scheme, given the theme.

Yeah, I know: The kids involved couldn’t be in on it, because it would probably wreck their current or pending college careers. But they could just be innocent bystanders, and the pros are the ones in on it, purposely dogging it for the cameras. All in aid of making this look like a viral campaign.

Sure, it’s a conspiracy theory. But I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 07/16/2009 12:15pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Basketball, Football, Other Sports
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Friday, June 26, 2021

I never thought I’d lament the absence of rumor-mongering and mostly-clueless talent assessment, but that’s exactly the void I’m feeling heading into the 2009 National Hockey League Entry Draft, which starts tonight.

I mean, it’s been extremely quiet all week. All that’s cropped up is an iffy Phil Kessel-for-Tomas Kaberle trade proposal from the Bruins to the Maple Leafs, and scattered speculation about the chances of the Islanders not picking John Tavares first overall. No other wheeling-and-dealing in bids to move up or down in selection order, or to tinker with rosters before free agency hits next week.

I know why I’m feeling shortchanged: Comparatively, NBA teams completed a flurry of transactions before and during their entry draft yesterday, including the trading of marquee names like Shaquille O’Neal. NHL teams are more constricted by the roster-based hard salary cap they operate under, but still, why should hoops fans have all the fun?

I suspect the hockey world will see a buzz of activity starting right about now, before the Draft begins at 7PM in Montreal. But it’s been a dull lead-up.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/26/2009 03:47pm
Category: Basketball, Hockey, Media, SportsBiz
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Thursday, June 25, 2021

Only last month, I took note of Bill Simmons’ vision of the future of sports reporting:

…I see a day when the following sequence will be routine: Player demands trade on blog; team obliges and announces deal on Twitter; player thanks old fans, takes shots at old team and gushes about new team on Facebook. We will not need anyone to report this, just someone to recap it. Preferably with links.

No permalinked trade demand from Shaquille O’Neal, but apparently, he did find out about his just-completed trade from Phoenix to Cleveland via his Twitterstream:

That’s what it looks like after a fan Tweeted the NBA superstar to ask about the trade shortly after the news broke late Wednesday night. Within minutes, Shaq replied “I didn’t hear dat yet” to the fan.

The fact Shaq was apparently out of the loop prompted disbelief and e-laughter from his Twitter followers, and Shaq seemed to grasp the weirdness of the situation.

“I kno right,” he Tweeted back.

So I guess the future is now, at least in the NBA. Or, it’s more like a blast from the past: For years, it was pretty common for sports and show biz folks to first hear about trades, TV show cancellations, etc. involving them, not directly from their bosses or agents, but via news reports. The passive-aggressiveness remains, only the medium has changed.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/25/2009 11:16am
Category: Basketball, Celebrity, Media, Social Media Online
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Wednesday, June 24, 2021

bank shot
The New York Mets balked at buying a matching nameplate for their stadium’s nearby subway stop in Queens, but the New Jersey Nets are game for it in their (hopeful) new home in Brooklyn. The NBA team will cough up $4 million for naming rights to the Atlantic Avenue, Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue subway stations.

No, the stops won’t say “Nets” on them, but rather, “Barclays”:

This may seem odd, since Barclays is a bank based in London with offices in Manhattan, and the only Barclay Street on the city map is not even in Brooklyn. (It’s in Manhattan, in the financial district.)

There will, however, soon be a Barclays Center, the sports arena planned as the focal point of the Atlantic Yards project, and the developer, Forest City Ratner, has agreed to pay the transportation authority $200,000 a year for the next 20 years to rename one of the oldest and busiest stations in the borough.

Of course, a soft economy has rendered the Atlantic Yards project very much up in the air now, so there’s a good chance that this deal will dissolve. But that scarcely matters, because the precedent is now set for other companies to plaster their names onto MTA landmarks, for a price.

Not that any of them are rushing forward:

Still, while selling station names could bring the authority revenue it needs, advertising experts say companies may not be as well-served.

“To be effective, the viewer needs to understand the relevance of the ad,” said Allen Adamson of Landor, a branding firm. “To rename the 59th and Lex stop the McDonald’s stop — it ain’t going to work. I don’t think it will stick.”

Indeed, other cities have tried this with little success. Boston, for example, tried auctioning off four historic stations a few years ago and received no bids…

To determine its asking price for the Brooklyn station, the authority studied a few successful efforts, like a monorail in Las Vegas named for Nextel, the communications company, and streetcars in Tampa, Fla., named for a local electric utility. And the popularity of the station — the second-busiest in Brooklyn last year — was taken into account.

I’m not sure I understand the reticence by corporate America. You’re talking about millions of eyeballs seeing, hearing, and talking about your brand every single day — where else can you get that exposure? Diehards are always going to insist on snubbing a name that’s grafted onto an established station, but that’s not going to completely negate the presence. To me, it’s a golden opportunity to grab urban mindshare.

The only way such subway signage rights would be more attractive would be if they were being offered for virgin territory, i.e. the long-planned 2nd Avenue “T Line”. I’m guessing that when/if construction is ever completed on that new branch, every single station on that route will be corporately-monikered, with no arena or other landmark needed for justification.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 06/24/2009 02:02pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Basketball, New Yorkin', Politics, SportsBiz
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Saturday, June 20, 2021

cup4gold dot com
No doubt, it takes a load of chutzpah for Cash4Gold to horn in on both the National Hockey League‘s and National Basketball Association‘s championship seasons by:

- Appraising the Stanley Cup at a “melt value” of $7,500, based on photographic examination and an assumption that it’s made of solid silver. (Obviously, not only did the company not get a hands-on chance to examine hockey’s most hallowed hardware, but it also didn’t bother to do basic research via the Hockey Hall of Fame, which clearly specs the Cup as 34.5 pounds of silver-and-nickel alloy.)

- Similarly valuing the Tiffany-made silver-and-gold Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy at $3,500 in melted form.

Probably the first time in a long while that the NBA came in second to the NHL in terms of financial valuation. At least both leagues know where they could liquefy their fancy assets for some quick cash, should the bottom ever fall out of sports entertainment…

Given these shoddy appraisal methods, I’m not sure I’d trust C4G to give me a fair price for my cast-off jewelry. Still, I’ll admit that they made a decent attempt at manufacturing a little marketing buzz, with a natural synergy between the big-league shiny prizes and the precious-metal salvage game.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 06/20/2009 07:14pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Basketball, Business, Hockey
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Tuesday, June 16, 2021

Your National Hockey League is on a real roll right now: On the heels of a court victory affirming its control over franchise ownership and relocation vis-Ă -vis the Coyotes and Jim Balsillie, it got confirmation that the just-completed Stanley Cup playoffs this year featured some of the highest television ratings in 36 years.

NBC’s Game 7 broadcast of the Stanley Cup final between the Penguins and the Red Wings on Friday night drew an average of 8 million viewers, the biggest American television audience for any N.H.L. game since the 9.4 million who watched the Game 6 Cup finale between Montreal and Chicago in 1973…

The size of the Pens-Wings audience is even more impressive, Variety reports, because Friday is customarily the lightest viewing night of the week.

And of course, some head-to-head context with the NHL’s sister league:

Sunday night’s ABC broadcast of Game 5 of the N.B.A. finals, in which the Los Angeles Lakers won the title against the Orlando Magic, attracted an average of 14 million viewers. That means the N.H.L. telecast drew an audience 57 percent the size of the N.B.A.’s. Traditionally in the U.S., N.H.L. games draw from 25 percent to 33 percent of the audience that watches N.B.A. games.

Yup, hockey fans can take pride in the idea that their sport is half as popular as pro hoops! But good news on the TV front is rare enough that this counts as a resounding victory. The Friday night result gives a nice boost to the final average viewership of 5.6 million for the five NBC-broadcasted games.

So how can the league and the network sustain this strong showing into next year? Some of the ingredients from this year can’t be pre-determined:

- Detroit in the Finals, which always pulls in eyeballs;
- Star-player power in the form of Sidney Crosby;
- The year-over-year rematch;
- Game 7 suspense;
- An unusually unchallenged programming night, with not only reruns on the other channels but also a night off for the NBA Finals;

But one key decision from Stanley Cup 2009 can be preserved going forward: The series-opening ratings juice that came from playing Games 1 and 2 on back-to-back weekend nights. You can debate how successful that would have been for NBC had it been, say, Columbus versus Florida. But I’m convinced that it’s the right way to kick off the showcase series of the playoffs: No opening-night pomp, followed by a day or two off for casual viewers to promptly forget about the whole thing. Saturday night served as the lead-in for a returning audience on Sunday, and the ratings momentum remained sustained from there, right through to Game 7′s breakthrough. So that two-game opener schedule will remain in place next year (and beyond).

I’d like to think that this Detroit-Pittsburgh showing will defuse the constant fretting over “large market” versus “small market” in championship TV ratings. Neither city can be truly considered “large market”, so you’d think that the raw viewer numbers wouldn’t measure up. Then again, they never do, unless you have the ideal population-intense New York-Los Angeles matchup, so it’s a pointless concern. These two cities are recognized as storied hockey towns, which probably helped sell the series; the challenge is to apply that pitch to non-traditional teams that might reach the Finals next year.

Finally, it’s refreshing to not hear about how hockey in June allegedly doesn’t work for a national audience. Summertime pucks seems to have found fans this time around.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/16/2009 11:41am
Category: Basketball, Hockey, SportsBiz, TV
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Tuesday, June 09, 2021

stripped gehr
A tanking economy called for a cutback on extravagance in Brooklyn’s proposed Atlantic Yards, and that meant saying goodbye to “starchitect” Frank Gehry and his arresting $1-billion NBA arena design.

So developer and New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner went to Plan B: A basketball barn downsized in pricetag and aesthetics, and already being savaged accordingly:

Whatever you may have felt about Mr. Gehry’s design — too big, too flamboyant — there is little doubt that it was thoughtful architecture. His arena complex, in which the stadium was embedded in a matrix of towers resembling falling shards of glass, was a striking addition to the Brooklyn skyline; it was also a fervent effort to engage the life of the city below.

A new design by the firm Ellerbe Becket has no such ambitions. A colossal, spiritless box, it would fit more comfortably in a cornfield than at one of the busiest intersections of a vibrant metropolis. Its low-budget, no-frills design embodies the crass, bottom-line mentality that puts personal profit above the public good. If it is ever built, it will create a black hole in the heart of a vital neighborhood.

But what’s most offensive about the design is the message it sends to New Yorkers. Architecture, we are being told, is something decorative and expendable, a luxury we can afford only in good times, or if we happen to be very rich. What’s most important is to build, no matter how thoughtless or dehumanizing the results. It is the kind of logic that kills cities — and that has been poisoning this one for decades.

Yes, a good deal of snobbery permeates this critique: Ellerbe Becket‘s Kansas City pedigree alone amounts to an affront when considering large-scale development in the five boroughs. Metropolitan propriety bristles at any hint of importing structures that resemble flyover-country landmarks.

Still, it’s not like Ratner didn’t ask for it with this stripped-down shell. There really is nothing distinctive about this proposed facility — it’s just a generic roof to provide a covering for the 20,000 seats beneath it. It’s utilitarian, but obnoxiously so. And it’s certainly not born from a vacuum — a comparison with Gehry’s might-have-been makes the Ellerbe Becket design look that much cheaper (even if “cheaper” still adds up to around $800 million).

At this point, it’s obvious Ratner is merely salvaging the attempt to develop his patch of Brooklyn, with any mega-square-footage enclosure feasible for housing the relocated Nets. Last-ditch effort that’ll probably get ditched altogether.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/09/2021 10:38pm
Category: Basketball, New Yorkin', SportsBiz
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Friday, June 05, 2021

extra icingfuller court press
If you’ve got more friends-slash-clients than can comfortably fit into a standard luxury box in Madison Square Garden, good news: The arena is super-sizing one of its suites to hold 300 people, as part of a 2-3 year renovation.

[MSG Vice Chairman Hank] Ratner said no decisions had been made on pricing, including for the 20 floor-level luxury suites and the 5,000-square-foot supersuite. But he said the arena is trying to learn from other sports venues in a tanking economy. The Yankees cut the price of over 100 front-row seats from $2,500 to $1,250 last month after seeing empty rows of the top-priced spots game after game.

The Garden officials showed reporters two mock-ups of a midlevel and floor-level luxury suite, which will soon be shopped to corporate sponsors. The suites behind the 23rd row at the Garden included granite-topped kitchen islands behind stadium seating; the floor-level suite featured formal dining tables, full bars and a fireplace.

The Garden abandoned plans for 19 “ledge suites” on the higher levels and combined 10 luxury suites to create the one supersuite since it introduced the plans a year ago.

I’ve gotta hand it to them, I didn’t think there was another significant way to boost in-arena acreage for profit. When you’ve got no other options but to stay put, you get extra-creative.

I guess this means that Cablevision really is backing out of building a new Garden across the street, since this sprucing-up will cost something north of half a billion dollars.

So the Rangers and Knicks get a leg up on facility revenue streams. Not for long, of course: The arms race in other NHL and NBA cities will jumpstart over this. Soon, swarms of hockey/hoops attendees from Atlanta to Seattle will be able to crowd into these supremo suites and party in a less-than-intimate setting, oblivious to the game action below them.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/05/2021 11:18am
Category: Basketball, Hockey, New Yorkin', SportsBiz
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Tuesday, May 19, 2021

Being a hockey fan, I’m well-accustomed to the denigration of the sport in general and the National Hockey League in particular, to the point where they’re not considered to be on the same relevancy level as the major-league editions of football, baseball, and basketball. So it is that, for instance, a dissection of the identity crisis suffered by Columbus (Ohio) lists as one problem the lack of any major-league sports teams in the city — disregarding the local NHL club and thereby underlining the lack of consideration for hockey as a big-league concern.

But when the sportsbiz calls for some time in front of the judge, it seems that the Big Three consider their on-ice brethren to be cut from the same cloth as they are:

The NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA have lined up in support of the NHL’s court fight to block the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes and move to southern Canada.

The other major sports leagues, including the office of baseball commissioner Bud Selig, filed statements in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Monday in support of the NHL.

All three statements ask the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to “respect the National Hockey League’s rules and procedures regarding ownership transfer and relocation.”

The statements of baseball and the NBA ask that the court “not set precedent that could severely disrupt the business of professional hockey,” baseball, basketball and other major league sports.

The NFL statement had similar wording, asking the court to avoid a “precedent that has the potential to undermine or disrupt the business of professional hockey, football or other major league sports.”

Nothing like litigation to bring family members together. Not that the economies of scale, labor issues, and political-economic arena strategies didn’t already make it obvious.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/19/2009 09:24pm
Category: Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, SportsBiz, True Crime
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Sunday, May 17, 2021

Just for fun, here’s a brief league-by-league rundown of the last time (to date) that franchises in the National Hockey League, National Football League, Major League Baseball, and the National Basketball Association have left one city/market in favor of another:

NBA - 2008: The SuperSonics leave Seattle in July and become the Oklahoma City Thunder

MLB - 2005: The Expos decamp from Montreal in Autumn 2004 and begin the next season as the Washington Nationals

NHL - 1997: The Whalers officially pull out of Hartford in May and commence the 1997-98 season in Raleigh as the Carolina Hurricanes

NFL - 1997: The Oilers finalize their departure from Houston at the end of the 1996 season and begin the 1997 season in Nashville Memphis as the Tennessee Oilers (and settle into Nashville the season after that, and become the Tennessee Titans)

There’s plenty of context behind each of these moves. I won’t go into detail, but highlights include: OKC hosting the Hurricane Katrina-displaced New Orleans Hornets prior to the Sonics arriving; the Expos being bought out by MLB, considered for franchise contraction, and split-timed between Montreal and Puerto Rico prior to landing in DC; and a spate of expansions/relocations encompassing Los Angeles, Winnipeg, Cleveland, and Jacksonville (among other cities) in hockey and football. Sports leagues don’t function in a vacuum, so all those background circumstances led to the franchise shuffles.

Also note that I didn’t bother to count situations where teams moved into new arenas that remained in their existing market, but just happened to be in a new ZIP code. So, for instance, the New Jersey Devils move in 2007 from East Rutherford to Newark doesn’t apply, as they remained in essentially the same area (northern New Jersey).

And yes, I compile this list with full knowledge that the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes could move to Hamilton, Ontario soon. Although the way that’s shaking out, it doesn’t look too likely that the move will come off; so this post should remain up-to-date for at least another year.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/17/2009 05:10pm
Category: Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, SportsBiz
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Monday, March 30, 2021

kiddin' playa
I’ll admit, I haven’t jumped onto the LeBron James bandwagon (by the way, how is it possible that this star, the National Basketball Association‘s designated Second Coming of Jordan, doesn’t have his own website up and running yet?).

But after catching his new State Farm commercial, wherein he channels Kid ‘N Play in all their House Party foot-locking choreographed glory:

I guess I’m now a fan of King James. Or at least, as much of a fan as I, being a hoops-hater, can be.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/30/2009 12:08pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Basketball, Comedy, Movies, Pop Culture
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Tuesday, February 17, 2021

FedEx has an undeniable case of the basketball jones. Consider:

This week, the package-delivery giant attempted to graft its corporate colors (orange and purple) onto the men’s hoops uniforms of the University of Memphis Tigers. The NCAA declared this — amid the multifarious advertising and marketing imagery also on display in the arena during “FedEx Appreciation Night” — to be in violation of the church-state divide, and so squashed it.

I wonder how many people recognize that this is but the latest try by FedEx to buy its way onto the jerseys and shorts of big-time basketball. In fact, the last high-profile attempt was when the National Basketball Association arrived in FedEx’s corporate hometown of Memphis in 2001. The then-Vancouver Grizzlies got a $100 million package offer from the company that led to naming rights for the eventually-built FedEx Forum, and would have also included a complete makeover for the franchise: The new orange/purple uniforms, and a name change to “Memphis Express”.

The arena portion of the deal went down fine, but the NBA killed off the team corp-branding. Like the college guys today, the pro-hoopsters weren’t (and probably still aren’t, almost ten years later) ready to sacrifice the essence of their franchises to the marketing gods — yet.

Regardless, this points to a pattern for FedEx. The C-level braintrust obviously really wants to muscle its way onto the hardwood, and identifies big-league sports in general as a desirable marketing channel. If any corporate entity succeeds in buying a franchise identity among the major pro/college sports, FedEx seems to have the inside track.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 02/17/2009 09:20pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Basketball, SportsBiz
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Monday, February 16, 2021

In his critique of the current “What Is ‘G’?” series of Gatorade commercials, Slate‘s John Swansburg gets downright Andy Rooney-ish over a couple of the faces featured:

They are, respectively, Chaz Ortiz, a 14-year-old skateboarding phenom, and the Jabbawockeez, a hip-hop dance crew that favors Jason-style hockey masks. No knock on skateboarding or hip-hop dance, but do these guys belong in the same commercial as Bill Russell? Ortiz and the Jabbawockeez stick out as a sop to a younger generation.

In addition to mistaking Jabbawockeez‘ facewear as Friday the 13th-inspired, rather than the obvious theatrical masks that they are, Swansburg apparently missed out on Shaquille O’Neal’s NBA All-Star tribute to the dance troupe, dubbed “Shaqawockeez”:

So, if this hip-hop act — which takes its name from Lewis Carroll’s poem — is good enough to hang with Shaq, I’d say it’s good enough to hang with Russell in a sugar-water commercial.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/16/2009 03:23pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Basketball, Food, Pop Culture, TV
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Saturday, February 07, 2021

horsin' around
When the National Basketball Association announced that it would recreate a little piece of schoolyard ball during the this year’s All-Star Weekend with the introduction of a H-O-R-S-E event, it undoubtedly won hearts and minds with such a fan-friendly move.

And when it subsequently announced that it had sold the naming — or really, lettering — rights to said event to GEICO, it probably lost those same hearts and minds all over again.

I don’t know what Geico shelled out to get their name on this, but it’s genius. I’m almost amazed someone larger (other five-letter brands like, say, Pepsi) didn’t get their hands on this first. Someone earned their Christmas bonus on this sponsorship deal.

You’d think they’d have kept it all in the animal kingdom by using the five-lettered word “gecko”, as a fit-in with GEICO’s famous spokes-lizard. But that wouldn’t be as obvious in highlighting the brand, and that’s what this is all about, after all.

It’ll still be the same Hangman-meets-freethrow rules, but now the five-letter chances spell out the brand-name car insurer. Doubtless the sponsor is hoping the NBA treatment will spread downward, so that someday kids playing streetball will challenged each other to games of G-E-I-C-O.

This is, of course, another example of direct corporate branding creeping ever closer to the on-court (and on-field, and on-ice) product. No big surprise that hoops is leading this charge, as it already sold off part of the game boxscore to Lenovo with a custom-created stat category. This time it’s just the All-Star Game, so it’s not exactly sacred ground; still, this horsing around is a bit unsettling.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 02/07/2021 03:30pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Basketball
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Sunday, January 25, 2021

With the National Hockey League in the midst of the 2009 All-Star Game festivities in Montreal, now’s as good a time as any for me to take a varied, mid-season assessment on various of-the-moment topics. In no particular order:

- The All-Star Game itself has generated a good amount of nattering over the fan voting irregularities, which resulted in both Eastern and Western starters coming from only four NHL teams: Pittsburgh, host Montreal, Chicago, and Anaheim. The griping points out that this homerism shuts out merit-based votes for players who racked up stats more worthy of All-Star recognition.

My thoughts: Get over it. Fan voting isn’t intended to result in fairly-measured selections — it’s meant to allow diehard fans to act as boosters for their favorite teams and/or players. It’s like walking into McDonald’s for a meal, and expecting to tuck into filet mignon.

If the idea of a coveted starting spot at the ASG being “wasted” bothers people so much, then here’s a simple solution: Stop calling them “starters”, and call them “All-Star Fan Selections”. Keep them in that 30-second first puck-drop formation, but label them something more in line with what they truly represent, and assuage the hardcore purists at the same time.

- I guess I’m the only hockey fan in creation who didn’t get that YoungStars is a pun on “youngsters”, right? Yep, I thought so.

- Speaking of the YoungStars, I liked the Rookies vs. Sophomores format.

Beyond the All-Star concerns…

- Fighting in hockey is again getting some mull-over time at the NHL level. I’ve already made my feelings known on the neverending debate, and will only add this: The proposed penalty for helmet removal during a fight will be one more rules-based indirect deterrent against fighting, same as the instigator rule. So I see the latest controversy as another soft move toward the eventual removal of fisticuffs from the game.

- The Islanders have managed to generate some artificial buzz by agreeing to play a preseason game in Kansas City, thus sparking speculation about their arena situation on Long Island.

I characterize the situation as “artificial” because, well, it is. Neutral-site preseason games are not even remotely a unique event — half of the NHL participates in them every year. They’ve never been viewed as preludes to team relocation. And Kansas City’s situation with its major league-bereft Sprint Center is also not unique — arenas from Hamilton, Ontario to Houston have hosted NHL games, without the visiting teams setting off speculation.

So I view this story as purely a creation out of the Islanders’ PR department, intended to stir up media frenzy and put pressure on officials in Hempstead to push through new arena development to keep the club in New York.

As for KC: I’ve already noted that the new arena there is a shoehorned affair, not suitable for long-term major-league occupancy. Add to that the relatively small size of the Kansas City media market, and it’s looking like a bad option for the NHL or NBA to set up shop there. Any team that moves into that barn is going to be short-timing it, looking for a new facility and/or location within 10 years. Therefore, as a hockey fan, I actually hope that the NBA beats the NHL to the Sprint Center, and let the resultant headaches go to David Stern.

All that said, and accounting for the inherent revenue-generating limitations of the Kansas City market: If the Sprint Center does land either a hoops or pucks team, I see a strong possibility that it will become the first Big Four team to adopt a wholly corporate-based identity, i.e. the Kansas City Sprinters. With Sprint-matching uniform colors of yellow-and-black.

- Finally, regarding the actual on-ice action and the standings: I’m as surprised as anyone that the Phoenix Coyotes have moved into fifth place in the West. The long-time doormats have quietly sneaked into playoff contention; I see them going out in the first round, but it’s still an achievement.

Their Eastern counterpart is probably the Buffalo Sabres. Both teams are largely doing it with mirrors, along with some underachievement by other clubs (Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Ottawa come to mind). Nice surprises, for as long as they last.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/25/2009 08:11pm
Category: Basketball, Hockey
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