The Sports Properties, Trend-Setters and Start-Ups to Watch in ’19
BOSTON – The “Diggies” are back for our ever-popular year-ender. Last year at this time, we provided the Sports Business, Sports Tech, Venture Community and Start-up world with our predictions for “Properties to Watch in 2018.” (Huffington Post Story HERE).
Generally, we were “on the money” with the obvious SCOTUS watchdog prediction but that had to be characterized as a “Chalk” bet. Overall, for 2018, we had a pretty good look at a few of the sports trend-setters.
As we look in the rearview mirror at 2018, amidst a December to Forget as you watch the DOW plummet, we believe there is much more ahead, as opposed to behind, so our focus for 2019 is on the trend-setters and we’re bullish on Sports Tech, Sports Media, AI, Basketball-related properties, and a few start-ups. We’re also quite bullish on a new generation of savvy entrepreneurs, many matriculating from the very best of Sports Administration programs at the University level.
Let’s delve into “Diggies 2019: New Properties, Trend-Setters and Start-Ups to Watch.”
Boston VC Sports: Starting quite close to home, we highly recommend that New England’s sports business and tech investors & entrepreneurs examine Boston Venture Community Sports (@BVCSports), a networking group which was born with HQ in NYC (@NYVCSports) and its first offspring in San Francisco (@SFVCSports). The group meets frequently and delves into topics of interest to investors in the sports business and venture communities.
The Sports Innovation Lab in Boston is a pioneer tech-driven services company focusing on sports and technology. Their research helps companies who invest in sports by crunching data and producing information to drive better decision-making and frame conversations for growth.
In the trend-setter category, we’re looking at two league start-ups this year, one in basketball (in Canada) and another in lacrosse (in the USA). In basketball, the CEBL (Canada Elite Basketball League) (@CEBLeague) will begin play in the spring (May 9, 2019) with its “Original 6” franchises, all owned by the single-entity league spearheaded by Mike Morreale, a former CFL player and CFLPA union president. League veep and head-honcho of the new Hamilton hoops club John Lashway recently did a podcast with the CUSP (Columbia U) crew.
The other start-up league is going the route of basketball’s Big 3 and launching a barnstorming pro lacrosse league, hanging its shingle as the Premier Lacrosse League and sending six clubs on junkets throughout the USA, rather than setting up shop in lax hotbed cities.
The league is the brainchild of Paul Rabil, a Johns Hopkins-educated lax legend who teamed-up with his brother, Mike. The Premier League will directly compete for lax talent and eye-balls with the long-existing MLL (Major Lacrosse League) as the wintertime NLL (National Lacrosse League) enjoys the indoor space on its own. (The NLL (@NLL) was on our 2018 list as an entity to watch and it came through with a solid season and new expansion franchises (A brand new San Diego franchise this year along with a Rochester and Halifax, Nova Scotia two-step shuffle and a new Long Island, NY club) to further grow the footprint of the indoor game).
It’s not the hard-hitting juggernaut that is the NFL but the American Flag Football League, founded by Wall Street guys like Jeff Lewis and backed with NFL Media, is a fun, fast alternative as a new property for people who love the sports of American Football but prefer their sports without the dangers of CTE and long-term injuries.
It’s has a million dollar payoff and although their Pros vs Joes format wasn’t perfect, the relatively new startup (approaching year two) @TheAAFL has potential in a niche business that’s “sort of” competing for the same market share as SIX other start-up football leagues.
We keep watching Darts on BBC America, (@DartsBBCA) not just because the American champion Chuck Puleo is Boston based, but because it has some great streaming numbers, in the millions, and it’s a sports everyone can understand (even if you’re wasted at the pub). Simple properties find their audience and you just wait for the Draft Kings fantasy and growing gambling crowd to find this bullseye.
On the sports investor front, we have two entities to watch in 2019, both off-shoots of Players’ Associations.
The NFLPA’s One Team Collective is worth a look-see while the NBA Players’ venture out into the world of Think 450, its attempt to be better positioned in the world of media, marketing, tech and sponsorship opps via their accelorator. The NBPA play is more of a traditional licensing arm since their decision back on July 17, 2017, when the NBA Players dumped their deal with the league for group licensing so its high time they venture out to create revenue for the union.
On the media front, Stadium and DAZN, neither new to the glut of sports offerings via OTT, are both worth watching in 2019.
Stadium invested in a couple hoop headliners in Jeff Goodman on the college scene and Shams Charania on the NBA beat. The venture was announced in April, 2017 and launched August 21, 2017, so its nothing new, but the Chicago-based multi-platform network has the backing of heavyweights such as BAMTech, Silver Chalice, Meredith, the NHL, PGA Tour and Sinclair. So? Watch Stadium (@Stadium).
DAZN went deep into the well for one of the most powerful minds in sports by making the “hire of 2018” in former ESPN honcho John Skipper. The network is keen on rights for live sports and boxing is the sports of choice as rights for individual bouts are always up for grabs while Skipper awaits an opportunity to pounce on OTT rights for any (or all?) of the big four (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL). DAZN (@DAZN) already has a strong base in Europe and is now focusing on the USA market.
Here’s a couple simple recommendations: First, to keep tabs on all of the action, we try to do our best but also feel very comfortable steering you to Sporttechie to follow all the breaking news and trends.
Secondly, it’s very short notice, yes, but if you’d like to start the new year with a junket to Las Vegas, look no further than CES Sports Zone from January 8-11, 2019. They’ll be doing the large “convention-style” gathering for all things apps, wearable, device-driven – you-name-it.
On January 9th, the CES Sports Zone turns-over to an exhibit for eSports. We prefer to look at the overall world of gaming over individual “eSports” as 2019 progresses and Ben Fischer of the SBD/SBJ recently discussed in-depth.
We told you about this one for the #HS18 conference back in late June ’18, but want to underline it again as the guys at opendorse continue to grow. They’ve (@opendorse) fast become a “go to source” for brands looking to build business with athletes in the social space. Now with a wider array of athletes, coaches and a growing list of colleges as clients, the Nebraska based company, founded by two ex-Cornhusker football players, is a master connector in sports business.
For the academics in the audience, we’re watching the ever-popular trend of STEM tied to athletes. Think Harvard alum and Atlanta Hawks guard Jeremy Lin and Texas one-and-done Jarett Allen of the Brooklyn Nets, both working to make math and analytics fun for kids looking to learn and enjoy sports on the road to activities like competitive robotics, where coed teams build and learn together, cheerleaders and all.
Twitch’s 10 Most Watched Channels provides insight for players in the Gaming world and is worth bookmarking if you fancy a look into the investment side. We keep an eye on both the sports industry and gaming/eSports via SBJ/SBD’s eSports Observer and believe an investment (Online and hard copy subscription) in the SBJ is the best bang for your buck, of course.
I’m 100% sure you’re all ready to commute to an arena or stadium near you utilizing Lime, Bird, Scoot, Skip or Spin, right? If it’s not 2019, it’ll be 2020.
If you think PUMA made an impression around the 2018 NBA Draft, you’ll be sure to appreciate the fact All Birds is the new $1.4B trend-setting start-up for sneaker heads. Native New Zealander Tim Brown crashed the Nike-adidas-Jordan Brand-Converse-Reebok-Under Armor-Puma party in a big way and the former Futbol man can prove it via this CNBC interview.
Your welcome, Tim, and I take a size 11.5-12 depending on the style and sizing.
If you’d like to follow our Diggies 2019 watch List on Twitter, simply click HERE. Follow @DigSportsDesk and @terrylyons and visit www.terrylyons.com for sports marketing and helping you and your company navigate the sports industry.