Thursday, August 28, 2008

In New York -- the ticket law of supply and demand

If I can make it there
I'll make it anywhere
It's up to you, New York, New York.

Call it the law. It’s the most basic rule when it comes to selling tickets to sports events – (or any event) make sure the demand for tickets is greater than the supply of tickets. According to the latest census information estimated population of 21,961,994 as of 2007 for what is often referred to as the New York metropolitan area, often referred to as the Tri-State Area, is the most populous metropolitan area in the United States and is also one of the most populous in the world. There are two National Football League franchises located within the region. The two teams – the New York Giants and the New York Jets play their home games in New Jersey.

The two teams are scheduled to open the 2010 NFL season in new stadium that will have seating for 82,500 fans, including 10,000 club seats and approximately 200 luxury suites. It will be the second-largest stadium in the NFL, after FedExField outside Washington, D.C., currently the largest stadium in the league with a capacity of 91,704. However, the New Cowboys Stadium located in Arlington, Texas, which plans to have a capacity of 80,000, is planned to be expandable to 100,000 with additional end zone seating.

Before anyone gets too upset – the new stadium is going to cost at least $1.6 billion. Each team is expected to generate $170 million from the sale of their respective PSL seat allotment.

Tuesday the Jets announced how they plan on handling season ticket sales. The Jets August 26 announcement followed the Giants announcement made on June 26.

A cornerstone of both plans – personal seat licenses, great if you can sell them, even better if you have a finite number of tickets in a market as big as the Giants and Jets are trying to sell their tickets too.

And for those who want to understand what a PSL is (OK it’s really a cash grab) here’s how the Giants “tried” to tell their fans on how and what PSL’s are: A PSL is a Personal Seat License. A Personal Seat License is a one-time payment for permanent control of a Giants home game seat. The purchase guarantees the owner’s right to purchase a season ticket as long as the Giants play in the new stadium. It also provides the purchaser with control of successorship of the tickets, a benefit now only available for direct family members. The PSL stays active on the condition that the season tickets are purchased annually.

You don’t have to read between the lines to appreciate how the Giants handled their late June PSL ticket drive announcement: Giants Stadium LLC on June 26 unveiled some details of the Personal Seat License program for New York Giants season ticket holders in the new stadium that opens in 2010. The so-called PSLs, are one-time payments that guarantee the purchaser associated rights to purchase Giants season tickets, will be part of the purchase price for every stadium seat in the new building. PSL prices range from $1,000 to $20,000. Ninety percent of the seats in the upper bowl will have $1,000 PSLs. Fewer than 5,000 seats, in a building which will have a capacity of 82,500, will be at the highest price. The Giants have attached a PSL price to every seat in they have in their ticket inventory.

John Mara said the decision to employ PSLs came after an exhaustive examination of all the financing options for the $1.6 billion stadium, now under construction in New Jersey.

“We have spent months exploring our various options regarding the financing of the construction of the new stadium,” said Mara, “Given construction costs and NFL and lender requirements for paying down our debt, and after much thought and analysis, we decided this PSL program is necessary. All the net proceeds from the sale of PSLs will be used to fund construction of the new stadium.”

Steve Tisch also acknowledged the difficulty of the PSL decision.

“It’s both an emotional and complicated process to establish the price structure in a new building that has an evolving manifest,” said Tisch.

The Jets made their PSL announcement Tuesday and while it could still be found on the teams’ website Wednesday – you needed a compass to do so. Funny how less than 24 hours after making the announcement – the Jets did their best to hide the news. And yes the Giants have long played hide and seek with their June 26 announcement.

New York Jets chairman and CEO Woody Johnson at a news conference Tuesday unveiled seating options for New Jets Stadium opening in 2010. The plan includes no Personal Seat Licenses (PSLs) on all 27,000 seats in the upper bowl, an auction that will give every fan the opportunity to bid on membership in the Coaches Club for access to the 2,000 best seats in the house, and the option for all PSL owners to finance their purchase over five years.

"Our goal with the New Jets Stadium is to create the best home field in football and provide a range of seating options," Johnson said at the news conference, held in the New Stadium Suites Sales Center located in the 50 Club at the Meadowlands.

"We listened to our fans in designing this plan. That is why we decided to have no PSLs in the entire upper bowl — including those on the 50-yard line."

The 2,000 Coaches Club seats, located between the 40-yard lines behind the Jets bench, will be sold exclusively through an auction to be held this fall. The auction will be open first to current season ticket holders, then to waitlist members, depending on availability.

"A seat in the Coaches Club," Johnson said, "is the closest thing to having a spot on the roster."

Of the remaining seats, those in the lower bowl and the mezzanine will have PSLs varying in price from $4,000 to $20,000, and those seats in the East and West Clubs and the Great Hall Club will have PSLs ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.

The Jets have also developed an optional financing plan. After a 20 percent deposit due upon purchase, PSL owners may pay in installments over five years.

Each seating option has its benefits according to the Jets release:

Upper Bowl — Clear view of high-definition scoreboards; wider concourses; cupholders at every seat; more concession stands; more restrooms.

Lower Bowl/Mezzanine — Reserved parking; more legroom; cupholders at every seat; wider tread area between rows for easier seat access and more comfortable viewing; option of purchasing tickets to certain other events and concerts (subject to terms and availability)

East/West Clubs and Great Hall Club — Reserved parking

with dedicated access; private member-only entry into the stadium; private, enclosed, heated concourse; upscale cuisine offerings; exclusive access to one of two luxurious climate-controlled lounges with comfortable seating and flat-panel TVs; wider, cushioned seats with cupholders; seats designed by premier restaurant and hotel architect David Rockwell.

Coaches Club — All of the above club amenities plus on-field patio behind the home bench for exclusive field access; 20,000-square-foot football lounge; all food and non-alcoholic beverages included in season-ticket price; guaranteed right to purchase two seats per account for a Jets Super Bowl game; live viewing access of the head coach's postgame news conference; view of Jets players' hallway through a glass-enclosed hallway.

Aside from the auction, the sale of seats in the new stadium of the other Club Member PSLs will follow in the winter. The remainder of the seats, including the seats with no PSLs, will be available in the spring of 2009.

The 2,000 Coaches Club seats, located between the 40-yard lines behind the Jets bench, will be sold exclusively through an auction to be held this fall. The auction will be open first to current season ticket holders, then to waitlist members, depending on availability.

Of the remaining seats, those in the lower bowl and the mezzanine will have PSLs varying in price from $4,000 to $20,000, and those seats in the East and West Clubs and the Great Hall Club will have PSLs ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.

The Jets have also developed an optional financing plan. After a 20 percent deposit due upon purchase, PSL owners may pay in installments over five years.

Each seating option has its benefits:

Upper Bowl — Clear view of high-definition scoreboards; wider concourses; cupholders at every seat; more concession stands; more restrooms.

Lower Bowl/Mezzanine — Reserved parking; more legroom; cupholders at every seat; wider tread area between rows for easier seat access and more comfortable viewing; option of purchasing tickets to certain other events and concerts (subject to terms and availability)

East/West Clubs and Great Hall Club — Reserved parking will use a priority system based first on seniority, according to Jets box office records, then on seat location. "That way," Johnson said, "our most loyal fans will always be at the front of the line."

Waitlist members will have the opportunity to purchase seats after season tickets holders. Depending on availability, season ticket holders will be able to upgrade to a Club Member PSL or to a PSL in the lower bowl or mezzanine end zone, or may purchase a seat that requires no PSL in the best available location.

The Jets' owner, who was accompanied at the news conference by club executive vice presidents Matt Higgins and Thad Sheely, also emphasized the other benefits available to all fans attending games, such as a new rail line to the stadium, wider traffic lanes, better tailgating and concerts on the plaza.

But Johnson's highest priorities have been to bring all Jets fans a new home stadium — the first in franchise history — and designed with them in mind according to the Jets release, and to give every current season ticket holder who wants to purchase seats in the new stadium the opportunity to do so.

"My goal with the New Jets Stadium is to create the best home field in football," he said. "In 2010 that goal will be realized when all Jets fans can say, 'Finally, we're the home team.' "

Following the Coaches Club PSL auction in the fall, the sale of the other Club Member PSLs will follow in the winter. The remainder of the seats, including the seats with no PSLs, will be available in the spring of 2009.

There is one major difference between the two plans and a unique twist to the Jets plan and will create a buzz in the sports industry.

The Giants will charge a fee for every seat in the new stadium. The Jets won’t be levying a fee on the 27,000 seats in the stadium’s upper level. The Giants have priced PSL’s at $1,000 each for upper level seats for their home games.

The Jets are taking 2,000 seats and are calling them “Coaches Club” seats. Asked what these seats will represent to Jets fans, Johnson suggested "A seat in the Coaches Club, is the closest thing to having a spot on the roster."

The Jets “Coaches Club” seats are located between the 40 yard lines, will offer parking, unlimited food and beverage and….field access directly behind the Jets bench. How will these seats be sold – via an auction. A one time price as the high as the auction forces the price to go up too.

Does this make sense – YES!! There are a finite number of tickets available for Jets and Giants fans. There is a population in excess of 22 million in the Greater New York area. 22 million people, 82,000 available tickets – it makes perfect sense to auction off a limited number of the tickets.

Needles to say – not everyone in the region is thrilled with the PSL plan. There is nothing like charging sports fans for the right to buy tickets that upsets voters more and when voters are upset – politicians’ sense there’s an opportunity.

"What the Jets are doing is different than the Giants," New Jersey Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone told the Associated Press. "They are leaving 27,000 seats PSL-free. A large portion of the stadium fan base will be able to buy seats without having to purchase a PSL."

Fan’s needless to say wasn’t greeted with welcome arms by football fans in the tri-state area.

"Unfortunately, I won't be able to stay in section 228 because it looks like it will be $7,500 for the PSL and $400 for the game," Dr. Michael Stein told New York Newsday, a pediatrician from Hauppauge. "I think that's unreasonable for anybody. I don't care who you are. So I'll just move to the upper deck so I can keep my seven seats."

But Dr. Stein was quick to add: "My reaction was happiness that there was actually an option without PSLs," he said.

Ira Lieberfarb of Staten Island agreed. "Overall, I think it was the fairest thing possible," said Lieberfarb, whose family has owned season tickets since 1972.

Steve Kern of Boonton Township, N.J., who organized a rally Saturday at the Meadowlands protesting the introduction of PSLs, said Tuesday's announcement was a mixed bag.

"The good news was that there are no PSLs in the upper deck," Kern said. "Supposedly the revenue they're generating [$370 million in PSLs] is the same as the Giants, which means that the remaining PSLs are all increased in cost to make up for not having PSLs in the upper deck."

As far as Jets owner Woody Johnson is concerned – he’s offering football fans an opportunity that can’t be passed up – the right to pay to buy tickets.

"I don't think there's anything, including Super Bowl III, that matches what the impact that this has," he said. "With the team, with in Florham Park, you've done everything you can do to put a winning team on the field. We want to go as far as we can go. In many ways, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to buy these seats."

The New York Times Richard Sandomir pointed out: one aspect of the Jets’ plan is clearly superior to the Giants’. The Jets said that they would do their own P.S.L. financing and hold interest rates (for terms of up to five years) to the high single digits. The Giants are routing fans looking for financing to Wachovia, where the interest rate will be based on individual creditworthiness. The Giants never intended to absorb some of the interest costs to assist their fans. But John Mara, the Giants’ co-owner, said recently of the bank, “We’ve hammered at them to be reasonable.”

Let’s clear up a few issues – is it ethical for sport franchises to sell PSL’s. Not only is it reasonable – its good business

What choice do longtime Giant and Jets fans really have? None, it’s spend the money or spend your Sunday’s watching games on TV (where yours truly will be). The only really unhappy sports fans are team owners who can’t sell PSL’s.

Remember there are a finite number of tickets and more people interested in buying tickets than there are available tickets. It is the law of supply and demand, Big Apple style and as the Chairman of the Board once sang:

If I can make it there
I'll make it anywhere
It's up to you, New York, New York.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: The New York Times, New York Newsday and the Associated Press

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The LPGA’s English only policy – good business or racist?

The LPGA Tour sent a message to its membership Tuesday that will be heard around the world. As first reported by Golf Week a leading industry trade publication the Ladies Professional Golf Association effective immediately will demand that any aspiring young ladies who want to play women’s professional golf at the highest (and most lucrative) level be able to speak English. And any women who currently play on the LPGA Tour have two years to learn how to converse in English or force being banned by the LPGA. The questions that beg to be asked include:

Is the decision a good or bad business decision?
Will the decision become a public nightmare for the LPGA?
And if the decision is to be deemed a bad decision is it bad enough to be linked to racism

The LPGA notice also read, in part according to Canada’s Globe and Mail: as a follow-up to the communications we have shared with the membership this year, the LPGA has adopted a policy on effective communication in English. Under this policy, all members must demonstrate that they can communicate in English in the following areas of our business: interaction with amateurs during tournament pro-ams, media interviews, and winner acceptance speeches, including thanking sponsors, fans, and volunteers."

Dealing with the specter of linking the LPGA’s thought process to racism – no way. It may one day be considered one of the worst choices a sports governing body have ever made (and that would be a stretch) but the LPGA decision has nothing whatsoever to do with racism.

Speaking the Bouchard-Taylor commission hearings in Quebec City dedicated to letting Quebecers vent on the accommodation of minorities lawyer Guy Bertrand used Montréal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu as an example of how Quebec is forced to make "unacceptable" linguistic accommodations that threaten French.

When called to speak in front of fans at the Bell Centre, Koivu speaks English, even though Quebec's Bill 101 enshrines the right of Quebecers to be spoken to in French, Bertrand said.

Bertrand’s political feelings aside – the suggestion the captain of the Montreal Canadiens speak French merits serious debate not because it may or may not cross close to Quebec bill, but because more than 80 percent of Quebec’s population speaks French. It may not be illegal but it’s not exactly ‘right’ for one of the key spokespeople for a leading French Canadian business to not be able to converse in the language an overwhelming percentage of Les Canadiens home based fans speak.

But does the same rationale hold true for the LPGA?

There are 121 international players on the LPGA Tour from 26 countries on tour; 45 are South Koreans. Sixteen of the top-20 current money earners were born outside of the United States. Eight of those women are South Korean followed by two Swedes, two Australians, a Mexican, a Norwegian, a Brazilian and a Taiwanese.

According to Golf Week it was at a mandatory South Korean player meeting on August 20 at the Safeway Classic, the tour informed its largest international contingent that beginning in 2009, all players who have been on tour for two years must pass an oral evaluation of their English skills. Failure would result in a suspended membership.

“Hopefully what we’re talking about is something that will not happen,” said Libba Galloway, the tour’s deputy commissioner, of possible suspensions. “If it does, we wouldn’t just say, ‘Come back next year.’ What we would do is work with them on where they fell short, provide them the resources they need, the tutoring . . . and when we feel like they need to be evaluated again, we would evaluate.”

Galloway said the policy takes effect immediately, but the “measurement time will be at the end of 2009.”

Hilary Lunke, president of the Player Executive Committee, told Golf Week she believes “much of this initiative stems from the importance of being able to entertain pro-am partners. Players already are fined if the LPGA receives complaints from their pro-am partners. Now the tour is taking it one step further.

“The bottom line is, we don’t have a job if we don’t entertain,” Lunke said. “In my mind, that’s as big a part of the job as shooting under par.”

Se Ri Pak one of the LPGA’s leading players (and a South Korean) made it clear to Golf Week that while she supported the sprit of the policy she believed fines and not suspension of playing privileges where in order.

“The LPGA could come out and say they only want 10 Koreans, but they’re not,” Park said. “A lot of Korean players think they are being targeted, but it’s just because there are so many of them.”

Seon-Hwa Lee, a two-time winner in 2008, thinks everyone “can do a simple interview.” She works with an English tutor in the winter and plans to brush up for the evaluation. Her ability to answer questions without the help of a translator has improved immensely during her short time on tour.

“The economy is bad, and we are losing sponsors,” she said. “Everybody understands.”

Kate Peters, executive director of the LPGA State Farm Classic, supported the news. “This is an American tour. It is important for sponsors to be able to interact with players and have a positive experience.”

Peters’ comments are at best insensitive. To suggest the LPGA is an “American Tour” does a complete disservice to two of the LPGA’s marquee events – the British and Canadian LPGA tour stops. There are also important LPGA events in Singapore, Mexico, France, South Korea and Japan. At the very least Kate Peters needs a geography lesson, made a statement that is politically incorrect and just isn’t the right thing to say.

"We saw it today for the first time," Rick Desrochers, the Royal Canadian Golf Association's managing director of championships, said of the policy yesterday. "We read it in the press first and almost concurrently got something from the Tour. We run a tournament [the CN Canadian Women's Open]. You would have thought that'd have given tournament operators a heads-up.

"I suppose their intention is right," Desrochers continued. "They're trying to help players. But the area is so sensitive. They're saying that unless you speak our language, we won't let you participate in our game."
Canada’s LPGA Tour stop had been called one of the four women’s majors for many years before losing the designation a few years ago. Two weeks ago 48 of the top 50 ranked LPGA players where in Ottawa for the Canadian LPGA event, an event that raised over $1 million for a local children’s hospital and is one of the biggest paydays on the LPGA Tour. Desrochers comments suggest at the very least the LPGA did a terrible job of communicating their message to their membership – an embarrassing job.

"I am of a strong belief that, yes, we need to learn to communicate," Canadian Lorie Kane, a 12-year tour veteran, told The Canadian Press on Tuesday. "But whether or not you can communicate shouldn't determine whether or not you have a card on the LPGA Tour."

Galloway told Golf Week the LPGA decision had nothing to do with sponsors and said interest in the tour has never been stronger.

“This should be a priority in their professional development just the way working on their short game is a priority,” Galloway said. “We just wanted to be clear about our expectations.”

There will be fallout from the LPGA decision but not as much as there should be. The bottom line – golf as a spectator sport remains a “man’s world”. When a LPGA event comes to a city the event is well supported. But do golf fans travel to attend LPGA events – forget about that. Given a choice golf fans (and virtually all sports fans) will attend a PGA event over an LPGA event – 100 percent of the time!!

Was it a good business decision – that remains to be seen but of this there is no doubt whatsoever – if this is an example as to how the LPGA handles a major announcement the LPGA needs some serious help. Consider this – the LPGA leaked their release to Golf Week – they didn’t post the release on their website. The LPGA had to know there would be a strong reaction and to not attempt to control their message, to run and hide suggests at the end of the day the LPGA is running and hiding. Shame, shame, shame – a real public relations nightmare for the LPGA.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider Report: Golf Week and The Globe and Mail

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Monday, August 25, 2008

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics – this is the end my friends

What the Chinese called a hundred year odyssey ended Sunday evening in Beijing when the 29th Olympiad the 2008 Summer Olympic Games reached their conclusion. Sports Business News asked one very important question in the days immediately preceding the Beijing Games – will the first ever Olympic Games being held in China be called the best ever Games. The answer now is what it was then – NEVER, NEVER, NEVER.

When it comes to facilities Beijing receives a gold medal. When it comes to execution of events Beijing receives a gold medal. When it comes to the lasting legacy the Games will leave – the Chinese may one day be wise to remember this not so old quaint Chinese Proverb "be careful what you wish for, lest it come true". China’s totalitarian communist government who for so long wished and dreamed the world would be their oyster if only the International Olympic Committee would award China the right to host an Olympic Games now have to face the reality of what happens when the door opens. It will not happen today, it will not happen tomorrow, next week, next year or maybe not even in the next decade. But as sure as the Olympic flame was extinguished Sunday in Beijing – the Chinese people one day will realize democracy – now that they’ve tasted freedom.

Over the last few days there have been a number of remarkable events that have taken place in Beijing and China . These moments in time have everything to do with the real lasting legacy the Beijing Games will have on the Chinese people, the world and if there is justice the International Olympic Committee and their major sponsors.

Wednesday The New York Times and the world media reported that two women displaced by the Games of the 29th Olympiad where sentenced to a year in a prison labor camp. As the Times put it; Wu Dianyuan and Wang Xiuying became the most recent examples of people punished for submitting applications to protest. A few would-be demonstrators have simply disappeared, at least for the duration of the Games, squelching already diminished hopes that the influx of foreigners and the prestige of holding the Games would push China ’s leaders to relax their tight grip on political expression.

“Can you imagine two old ladies in their 70s being re-educated through labor?” asked Li Xuehui, Ms. Wu’s son, who said the police told the two women that their sentence might remain in suspension if they stayed at home and stopped asking for permission to protest.

“I feel very sad and angry because we’re only asking for the basic right of living and it’s been six years, but nobody will do anything to help,” Mr. Li told The New York Times.

In the months leading up to the Games suggestions China’s totalitarian communist government would allow some free thought during the Games welcomed the news that protest zones would be set up for those who wished to ‘express’ their feelings about China during the Games.

“In order to ensure smooth traffic flow, a nice environment and good social order, we will invite these participants to hold their demonstrations in designated places,” Liu Shaowu, the security director for Beijing’s Olympic organizing committee, said at a news conference before the Games. He described the creation of three so-called protest zones and suggested that a simple application process would provide Chinese citizens an avenue for free expression; a right that has long been enshrined in China ’s Constitution but in reality is rarely granted.

“For Chinese petitioners, if their protest applications were approved, it would lead to a chain reaction of others seeking to voice their problems as well,” Mr. Li told The New York Times before the Games.

In what must have been a remarkable compliment to Chinese understanding – more than 75 (but less than 80) groups applied for permits. What makes this so ‘interesting’ all 75 to 80 groups thought better of following through with their planned protests.

Officials say that they received 77 protest applications but that nearly all of them were dropped after the complaints were “properly addressed by relevant authorities or departments through consultations.”

At a news conference on Wednesday, Wang Wei, the vice president of Beijing ’s Olympic organizing committee, was asked about the lack of protests. He said it showed the system was working. “I’m glad to hear that over 70 protest issues have been solved through consultation, dialogue,” he said. “This is a part of Chinese culture.”

But human rights advocates say that instead of pointing the way toward a more open society, the Olympics have put China ’s political controls on display.

“Given this moment when the international spotlight is shining on China, when so much of the international media are in Beijing, it’s unfathomable why the authorities are intensifying social control,” said Sharon Hom, the executive director of Human Rights in China in a New York Times report. “The truth is they’re sending a clear and disturbing message, one they’re not even trying to hide, which is we’re not even interested in hearing dissenting voices.”

The “lack” of planned protests and protestors didn’t stop six Americans from being arrested late last week and then being sentenced to 10-day prison terms as guests of the Chinese people.

According to various media reports: activists from the New York-based Students for a Free Tibet said Friday that they had no information about four other protesters who were detained early Thursday during a protest near National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest. The four are two Americans, a German and a Briton.

Extrajudicial detentions, a common punishment for Chinese dissidents, are rarely handed out to foreigners, who are often deported almost immediately after being taken into custody.

Members of Students for a Free Tibet have staged eight protests involving 55 people since the Olympics began on Aug. 8. Human rights advocates speculated that the government might be seeking to deter those contemplating similar activities in the Games’ final days.

J. Alexander Hamilton, a spokesman for the American Embassy in Beijing , said United States officials were working with Chinese authorities to gain more information about the detainees. “Our policy is to encourage the Chinese government to respect free expression and freedom of religion, which are protected by law,” he said.

According to The New York Times: On Friday, students for a Free Tibet declared that its Olympics campaign had succeeded and that it was winding down. In characteristically stealthy fashion, the announcement was made by two members who summoned reporters to a street corner with 20 minutes’ notice.

The members, Alice Speller and Ginger Cassady, said that even though the protests had been fleeting and witnessed by only a few Chinese, they had helped highlight the issue in the foreign media.

“ China is trying to show the world this face, that they are a modern, progressive country, but that really isn’t the truth,” said Ms. Speller, a law student from Britain in a New York Times report. “The real face is one that denies freedom of expression, and that denies it brutally and violently when it can.”

United States Ambassador to China Clark T. Randt Jr. said in a statement released Sunday that the Beijing government should demonstrate respect for human rights and free speech.

U.S. officials, he said, are "disappointed that China has not used the occasion of the Olympics to demonstrate greater tolerance and openness."

China is home to 1.3 billion people – nearly a quarter of the world’s population. What’s a few displaced Chinese when you have the chance to host an Olympic Games?

The Washington Post reported that Cheng Linpeng, 34, formerly a fish farmer, found a job at a construction company in the capital, working on a residential building. But that project was shut down in July because of worries about dust and air pollution ahead of the Games.

"Because of the Olympics, we are not allowed to do our jobs anymore. The whole place was shut down, and we don't know when we'll be able to go back," Cheng said. What’s the loss of one’s livelihood in terms of cleaner air?

And those empty seats at Olympic events – pity if Linpeng and his now unemployed friends wanted to attend at Olympic event – the thought never crossed their minds.

"Would we be allowed?" Cheng asked, explaining that migrant workers are considered second-class citizens in Beijing . "The place is not so big, and it wouldn't be able to hold everyone who wants to come. We are not qualified."

As for the lack of protests – what role if any could the International Olympic Committee have played? Did the Lords of the Rings hope and pray the Games of the 29th Olympiad where free of protests?

The IOC "has "completely mishandled the human-rights issues in these Games," said Minky Worden, a spokesperson for Human Rights Watch in a Philadelphia Inquirer report.

The China Daily noted that the move to set aside the protest zones "is in line with Beijing 's promises to the International Olympic Committee to adhere to the Olympic traditions, such as free expression outside the sporting venues."

"It must be the most cynical interpretation of the freedom to protest - that you follow the rules, apply five days in advance, then are turned away or put under house arrest or worse," Worden said in a telephone interview, adding that most Chinese applicants were aware of the potential risks.

"How desperate do you have to be to file a protest that would result in likely detention?" Worden said.

Dreamers dream big dreams. When Beijing was awarded the Games of the 29th Olympiad on Friday July 13, 2001 (who ever suggested Friday the 13th was a bad day) the Chinese assured the world by the day the Games opened on August 8, 2008 Human Rights would be a bedrock of China’s society. Needless to say that hasn’t happened, but… takes many years to really create lasting change.

"They'll keep most of the things in place—certainly the harassment of the dissidents—and we won't see any kind of greater move towards liberalization or opening up or anything like that," Adam Segal, senior fellow for China Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations predicted in a Business Week report. "Did this change China 's view in the world? Is this a turning point? No. It will just reinforce your sense of a party that's completely insecure and lacking a great deal of confidence."

Cheng Li, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Business Week he believes the government's successful staging of the Games will be a boost to reformers. "I believe the Olympics [will] make China more open, more transparent, more tolerant, and more confident," says Li, who predicts progress on human rights and media freedom. "The Chinese government has become more confident because of a successful Olympics—that helps the liberal wing of the leaders…they will argue that we should not be so scared of the international media and international integration and also to a certain extent openness or transparency," he says.

Progress won't happen quickly, cautions Li. But he told Business Week he believes the Games will spur reform over the medium term. "Probably it will take another 5 to 10 years," says Li. "But who will win the battle is quite clear."

Which of course comes back to the earlier issue raised – it isn’t a matter of if but when China ’s totalitarian communist government are toppled. That will be the true lasting legacy of the Games of the 29th Olympiad that will be what the Games be remembered for – the day China’s totalitarian communist government opened Pandora’s Box.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Business Week.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

With the 2008 Beijing Olympics winding down three of the key marketing/athlete endorsement issues are the selling of Michael Phelps, the endorsement potential of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and the impact ramifications against the Chinese women’s gymnastics team. It would be against the IOC and the Chinese Gymnastics Federation if the investigation proves the Chinese Women’s Gymnastics team used underage athletes and the team is stripped of their gold medals.

Michael Phelps mania shows no sign of subsiding. Friday, Joyce Julius & Associates released another report looking at the value Phelps exposure has meant to Phelps sponsors.

Phelps’ eight-night gold medal run at the Beijing Olympics saw brands associated with the swimmer amass a combined $19 million of in-broadcast exposure value during NBC’s primetime telecasts, and another $5.1 million of exposure value stemming from articles appearing during the same time span in print publications and on the Internet.

According to research conducted by Joyce Julius & Associates, Inc. — which specializes in measuring the impact of sponsorships across all forms of media — Nike, Speedo and Visa logos combined for 12 minutes, 41 seconds (12:41) of on-screen time exclusively from apparel worn by Phelps during NBC’s coverage, beginning Saturday, August 9, and running through his final gold medal triumph on Saturday, August 16. One way Joyce Julius determines exposure value is by comparing the in-broadcast time the brands garner to the estimated cost of a commercial spot during the telecasts.

A warm-up jacket worn by Phelps during each of his medal ceremonies accounted for all of Nike’s time with the swimmer, as the familiar swoosh was monitored for 8:19, leading to an exposure value of $12.5 million.

Speedo logos on Phelps’ warm-up jacket, swim cap and bodysuit and a hat landed the brand 4:19 of airtime and $6.5 million. Meanwhile, Olympic restrictions prevented Phelps from wearing Visa logos; however, NBC’s highlight montages of the swimmer’s career did produce a smattering of in-broadcast exposure for his sponsor.

During the eight days Phelps competed, his sponsors also enjoyed a media surge ranging beyond the event broadcasts. For example, Speedo benefited from press coverage surrounding a performance bounce they established with the swimmer, as text mentions of the brand and Phelps together appeared within nearly 600 print articles and 3,500 stories monitored on the Internet. This coverage alone provided Speedo with an additional $3.5 million of exposure value.
Phelps dominated the first week of the Beijing Games but its clear the marketing star from week two has Usain “Lightening” Bolt. Bolt won gold medals in both the 100M and 200M sprint track and field running events setting a world record in both events. Friday, Bolt was a member of Jamaica’s 4x100 Olympic gold medal rely sprint team. Bolt and the Jamaicans’ set a world record.

The Beijing medal count – Phelps eight gold medals and seven world records. Bolt three gold medals and three world records. Phelps a swimmer, Bolts a sprinter. The major difference Phelps will have limited event exposure during the next quadrennial (the four year period leading to the 2012 London Games) while Bolt will run next week in Germany. It’s a night and day difference when it comes to which athlete will get to showcase his skills on their chosen athletic field.

And for Bolt the differences between being a track and field athlete and Phelps being a swimmer become apparent next week. Phelps will be back in the USA; Bolt will be looking at earning gold bars running in Germany.

The 22-year-old sprinter is to compete at the Weltklasse meet in Zurich next week, where he can collect a kilogram of gold and prize money worth a combined US$93,000 or more than J$6 million if he breaks his 100-meter world record of 9.69 seconds.

Organizers are offering a US$50,000 record bonus on top of US$16,000 for winning a race.
A Swiss bank sponsor has promised the gold bars.

Bolt will then head to Switzerland to run the 200 metres at the September 2 Athletissima meet in Lausanne, where he can net another gold bar worth around US$27,000 if he improves on his newly minted 19.30 seconds mark.

By dominating the Olympic sprint events with devastating ease, Bolt has quickly become the new darling of international meet organizers. Aside from increased bonuses, he can also expect to receive significantly higher appearance fees of up to US$30,000.

The next time Phelps gets to showcase his ability as a swimmer will be at the 2009 World Aquatic Championships next summer in Rome. As far as NBC is concerned – they’ll continue their commitment to being the network that showcases everything that is Michael Phelps.

On the heels of the most memorable Olympic swimming competition in history, in which Michael Phelps won an unprecedented eight gold medals, NBC Sports, in cooperation with USA Swimming, today announced an agreement for the most significant U.S. television package in the history of the sport. NBC Sports and Universal Sports will broadcast the 2009 World Swimming Championships from Rome and the 2009 USA Swimming National Championships (which will serve to qualify the U.S. team for the 2009 Worlds), as well as the National Championships in 2010 and 2011. The agreement is the first major announcement for the sport of swimming since the remarkable Beijing Olympic swimming competition that saw 20 new world records in the 32 morning finals. NBC already holds the broadcast rights to the 2012 U.S. Olympics Swimming Trials and 2012 London Olympic Games. The announcement was made today by Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics and Chuck Wielgus, Executive Director, USA Swimming.

Michael Phelps, who has long stated a goal of getting more exposure for the sport of swimming, said: "I've said for a long time that my most important goal was to leave swimming better than I found it and this move to network coverage on NBC of our major championships is a dream come true and a big step in that direction."

Phelps has stated his intention to continue with competitive swimming through the 2012 London Olympics. When asked about swimming at the 2009 World Championships, he said, "My mom has told me that I better make the [2009 U.S. World Championships team], because she wants to go to Rome. I have the pressure from the mom, so I guess we have to get back into it and make that happen."

NBC Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics said: "The whole world watched as Michael Phelps took his sport to a new level and introduced a generation of fans to swimming through his extraordinary achievements. His accomplishments transcend sports and, are in fact, a cultural phenomenon. We're greatly looking forward to following the next chapter in his career."

Chuck Wielgus, Executive Director, USA Swimming Added: "We're thrilled with our evolving partnership with NBC. Having NBC broadcast the 2009 FINA World Championships is a huge step forward for our sport."

NBC will broadcast weekend coverage from Rome on July 26 and Aug. 1-2, 2009 and will also air mid-week coverage on the newly-launched Universal Sports digital channel.

Led by its live primetime swimming coverage, NBC averaged 30.0 million average viewers, 13 percent ahead of Athens in 2004, through the first eight days of the Beijing Games as Michael Phelps' quest for eight gold medals captivated America. Phelps' achievements transcend his sport, inspiring his hometown Baltimore Ravens to broadcast his record-breaking race in Ravens Stadium following their preseason game, and attracting members of the U.S. Olympic basketball team to his races in the Water Cube on the Olympic Green in Beijing.

As for Bolt – The Manchester Guardian reported that Bolt, is starting to reap the commercial benefits of his Beijing triumph, with an approach from UK cable company Virgin Media to be the face of its superfast broadband service.

Virgin Media, which is set to launch a 50Mb broadband product it claims will be more than twice as fast as rivals, is considering calling the product "Boltband".

Ashley Stockwell, the head of Virgin Media's marketing operation, said the company had approached Bolt to become the face of its new high-speed web service.

"Our new 50Mb service will deliver even faster lightning broadband speeds, which is why we feel that Usain will be the perfect ambassador for our campaign," Stockwell added.

Earlier this week The (Portland) Oregonian reported that: Bolt, Chinese diver Guo Jing Jing, American gymnast Shawn Johnson and 16-year-old Aussie swimmer Cate Campbell have made the largest leap in good media buzz over the past week of the Olympic Games, according to one media tracking and analysis firm.

The firm also finds Nike benefited from its "ambush" marketing strategy, though less so as the Games have progressed.

Austin, Tex.-based Global Language Monitor uses proprietary software to measure how certain names appear on websites and print media in relation to other words over time. For the Olympics, it has measured both brand names and athlete names. It attempts to assign a qualitative measure, too, based on whether the name appears in major media or not, company president Paul JJ Payack said.

Throughout the games, Michael Phelps has ranked the No. 1 athlete. But as of Aug.18, the new No. 2 is Lin Miaoke, the Chinese girl who lip-synced during the Opening Ceremonies. She displaced Chinese basketball star Yao Ming, now No. 3.

Since GLM's last measurement, taken the third week of July, 100-meter gold medalist Bolt has jumped five spots to No. 4 on GLM's chart. That was before Bolt won today's 200-meter race.
The 41-year-old U.S. swimmer Dara Torres moved up three spots to No. 5. Multiple medalist Johnson jumped six spots to No. 9 and Campbell 11 spots to No. 12.

Those rankings have to please Speedo (which sponsors Phelps), Reebok (Ming), Puma (Bolt), Li Ning (Guo) and adidas (Johnson).

Athletes whose buzz has declined dramatically include Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang (Nike), U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay (adidas), British marathoner Paula Radcliffe (Nike), Aussie swimmer Grant Hackett (Speedo) and Sanya Richards (Nike) and U.S. Jeremy Wariner (adidas), both 400-meter athletes from the U.S. Wariner has not raced in his final.

In its brand rankings on Aug. 13, Nike ranked No. 5, above official Olympic sponsors Samsung, Panasonic and Coca-Cola (Nike's fellow Wieden+Kennedy client). Nike is not an official Olympics sponsor but instead advertises through athletes and commercials, events and signs surrounding the Games.

Since then, Nike has slipped to No. 9. That's still "impressive," Payack said, considering it didn't spend the reported $80 million that adidas did to be an official outfitter of the Games. Lenovo is the surprise No. 1, he said.

As hot as Bolt has been on the track and potentially down the road in the corporate marketplace one place that has been less than appreciative of Bolt’s efforts are in the offices of International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge. Bolt brought an infectious spirit to Beijing’s Olympic Track events. He smiled, danced – in short he loved and lived every moment he raced (and won) at the Beijing Games. Bolt’s ‘spirit in the night’ didn’t impress Rogge after Bolt won the men’s 100M earlier in the week

Rogge called on the young sprinter to treat his opponents with more respect and not to go over the top with his celebrations.

"I have no problem with him doing a show," Rogge said in an interview with international news agency reporters.

"I think he should show more respect for his competitors and shake hands, give a tap on the shoulder to the other ones immediately after the finish and not make gestures like the one he made in the 100 metres."

While Rogge was ‘critical’ of Bolt he offered little on the ‘controversy’ surrounding Michael Phelps win by a 100th of a second in last Saturday’s 100M men’s butterfly. Earlier this week The New York Times Jere Longman reported that before Phelps left Beijing Wednesday he visited the Omega Pavilion in Beijing. Omega one of the IOC’s TOP (12 major world-wide sponsors) and one of Phelps major sponsors did their Beijing corporate entertaining at their Omega Pavilion in Beijing.

Omega as Longman pointed out is not only the official timekeeper of the Beijing Games. It is also one of Phelps's corporate sponsors, an arrangement that appears to be a conflict of interest.
The most visible athlete at these Games (in question if you look at the impact Bolt has had had in week two) is getting a paycheck from the same company whose equipment decides the outcome of Phelps's events.

Most of the time, such a relationship probably would not draw much attention or concern. The Olympic timing system is a seemingly fail-safe, objective determination of the order of finish. Unlike figure skating and gymnastics, there are no subjective votes made by judges in swimming.

But Phelps as Longman pointed out was involved in a disputed race last Saturday, and Omega has declined to release underwater video images showing conclusively that Phelps won the 100-meter butterfly by a hundredth of a second over Milorad Cavic of Serbia.

Whether it has anything to hide or not, Omega is needlessly leaving its own reputation — and Phelps's — vulnerable to suspicion, sports ethicists and historians said.

"Here we are in the situation in which the finish is questionable and the ultimate judge of truth is refusing to make public information that 'may' be nothing short of catastrophic for Phelps,
Omega, Phelps's other sponsors and the Americans in general, who certainly do not want their wonder boy's amazing feat tarnished," David Malloy, a sports ethicist at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, said in an e-mail message.

He added: "This issue may end up being very damaging to Phelps, Omega and the USA Sadly, it could have been avoided with careful thought and basic ethical advice."

Shortly after Saturday's disputed race, Alina Ivanescu, a spokeswoman for Omega, told The New York Times that the company would soon forward the video images to the news media. Later Saturday, though, Ivanescu sent an e-mail message, saying that swimming's world governing body, known as FINA, decided not to release any timekeeping images to the news media.

"It is not up to us to decide," Ivanescu said Wednesday. "It's our job to provide the results. FINA decides what can be published or not. FINA said it was a no go."

Omega, which has timed Olympic events since 1932, uses four digital cameras as a backup to its electronic timing system. Images from track events have routinely been released by Omega.
Christophe Berthaud, Omega's Olympic manager, said that there was no human intervention in the determining of race results and that there was "absolutely no doubt" that Phelps won.

"Omega provides the most accurate and reliable measurement system in the world," Berthaud said in an e-mail message. "The professionalism and independence of its teams are recognized by the highest authorities of sport."

Cornel Marculescu, executive director of FINA, could not be reached Wednesday. On Sunday, he told The New York Times that it was FINA's policy not to release race images. He also noted that Serbian officials had seen the images and had withdrawn their protest of the butterfly race, satisfied that Phelps had indeed won.

"We are not going to distribute footage," Marculescu said. "Everything is good. What are you going to do with the footage? See what the Serbians already saw? It is clarified for us beyond any doubt."

The International Olympic Committee said Wednesday it would not press FINA or Omega to release the images.

"The result of the race as declared by the federation is final and the IOC has no reason to question it," said Giselle Davies, a spokeswoman for the IOC

Phelps was not made available for an interview. His agent, Peter Carlisle of Octagon, said he had no plans to ask for the release of the images. "That sort of stuff is an issue that FINA deals with," he said. "We don't get involved with what happens in the pool like that."

Carlisle said he did not see a conflict in Phelps's arrangement with Omega. "I don't see how the company decides the outcome of a race," he added in the New York Times report.

One issue is clear – both Phelps and Bolt have emerged from the Beijing Games as marketing machines something most of their fellow Olympians won’t get to enjoy.

"Only a very few will make it. They will do so by being great in the next few years, working in the media," said Peter Walshe, global brands director at marketing researcher Millward Brown in a Reuters report.

"These athletes need to have an additional hook, a story, pursuit, or career that transcends their Olympic glory," said David Clarke, from the USC's Sports Business Institute.

"The Olympics may well be a door opener to the future but success relies on offering something distinctive ... Just being an Olympian is no guarantee," said Walshe.

Both Phelps and Bolt have that hook. They’re both young. They’ll both compete at the 2012 London Games. They both love the camera and the camera clearly loves them. Phelps has the advantage of being an American, the first athlete to win eight gold medals in a single Olympic Games and has won more career gold medals than any other Olympian.

Athletically Bolt competes more often, as a sprinter he has a higher athletic profile but being from Jamaica isn’t an advantage. Ask Donovan Bailey who won both the men’s 100M and was part of Canada’s gold medal winning men’s 4x100 relay team how he feels 12 years after Michael Johnson won the men’s 200M and 400M at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Johnson the American earned tens of millions of dollars more than Bailey did after both men won gold in Olympic sprint events.

Bolt has to accept that American companies are going to invest in American athletes. Both athletes will earn tens of millions of dollars (if not hundreds of millions of dollars) from their Beijing success but the bigger winner will be Phelps – that’s the bottom line.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: Reuters, The New York Times, The Manchester Guardian and The Oregonian

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics – credit deserved – NBC’s amazing Olympics

If history teaches us anything it is that we learn from our mistakes. NBC’s 2008 Beijing Olympic experience is an example of how a major corporation (the National Broadcasting Company – NBC) owned by General Electric, took what they learnt from their previous Olympic Games coverage and will have delivered a stunning 17 days of coverage by the time the Games end Sunday.

The numbers (looked at in an earlier Insider Report) have seen NBC deliver their best ever Olympic Games ratings, best ever Olympic Games advertising sales and best ever Games coverage. That is a testament to learning what worked and didn’t work in the 11 previous Olympic Games NBC has televised.

NBC made their Olympic television debut when they showed the 1964 Summer Olympics from Tokyo, marking its Olympic TV debut. They did this with the aid of the Syncom 3 satellite for direct broadcasts.

Meanwhile, NBC first televised the Winter Olympic Games in 1972, while the 1964 Summer Olympics were the first Summer Olympics televised by NBC.

NBC had won the U.S. broadcast rights for the 1980 Summer Olympics, but when the United States Olympic Committee kept U.S. athletes home to honor the boycott announced by President Jimmy Carter, the telecasts were greatly scaled back. In the end, what had been 150 hours of scheduled coverage, shrunk to just a few hours of weekend highlights. These highlights were fed to local NBC stations for use on local newscasts. Many affiliates however, refused to show the Olympic highlights on their local news. They also refused to clear airtime for the few hours of coverage NBC did present.

NBC then bid for, and won, the rights to show the 1988 Summer Olympics. Network officials convinced the organizers in Seoul to stage most of its gold-medal finals in the afternoon, which is primetime of the previous night in the U.S. Bryant Gumbel was the host that year.

Just as his mentor Roone Arledge had before over at ABC, Dick Ebersol, who took over NBC Sports in 1989, decided to make the Olympics a staple of his network's sports television schedule. NBC continued its Summer Games coverage into the decade, with both the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona and the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. And as with Arledge (who had to deal with the Munich massacre during the 1972 Summer Games), Ebersol had to deal with breaking news during the Games. During the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in 1996, NBC suspended its coverage of a volleyball game and broadcast the news for several hours commercial-free. Bob Costas made its debut as primetime host in 1992. Costas had previously, hosted the late night coverage in Seoul.

To help defray the increasing costs of broadcast rights, NBC turned to cable and satellite services for additional coverage. In 1992, NBC teamed up with Cablevision for the Triplecast, which provided three channels of pay-per-view telecasts that supplemented NBC's regular coverage. However, NBC lost over $100 million, the package was dropped, and there was no supplemental coverage from Atlanta.

Coverage in the first decade of the 21st century revolved around two major storylines:

NBC became the sole U.S. rights holder for the Olympic Games for the entire decade and beyond. The network could rightly boast of being "America's Olympic Network" as it made the longest and most expensive commitment ever since the Olympics were first presented on TV. For the 1996 Summer Games, and all Games from 2000 to 2008, NBC paid a total of $3.5 billion, mostly to the International Olympic Committee but also to the USOC and local organizers. To extend rights to the 2010 Winter Olympics and 2012 Summer Olympics, NBC then gave up another $2.2 billion.
The rise of various media platforms extended the reach and availability of Games coverage. NBC returned to supplemental cable/satellite coverage in 2000, with some events on CNBC and MSNBC.

In 2004, it added USA Network, Bravo, and Telemundo, all of which parent company NBC Universal had acquired earlier in the decade.

In 2006, Universal HD was added to the list of channels carrying the Games. Finally, in 2008, events were streamed live for the first time on the Internet through the website (Also in 2008, Oxygen replaced Bravo as a supplemental network, and NBC launched high-definition channels dedicated to the basketball and soccer competitions.)

USA Today sports media reporter Michael Hiestand (one of the most influential in the industry) believes NBC finally understood how they could best deliver an Olympic Games.

“Not to be ungrateful, but anybody watching Beijing Olympic TV could reasonably ask: NBC, what took you so long?
“What's good about NBC's coverage, which is so far highly rated and acclaimed, is that it's another step in the long slog toward bringing common sense to Olympic TV — and gradually squeezing out elements of the Olympic TV formula that long annoyed viewers.

“Take the up-close-and-personal features NBC uses to introduce viewers to largely unknown athletes. Now, they're usually concise and neatly tucked in event coverage.

“But they used to seem like mini-movies that could leave viewers just tuning in wondering if they really had the channel showing the Olympics. It took NBC's stream of tear-jerkers for the 1996 Atlanta Games — how did John Tesh manage to find so many athletes whose pets were gravely ill? — To turn the tide against these maudlin melodramas. NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol joked (sort of) that they'd no longer portray asthma as a life-threatening condition.

Now, NBC gives us glimpses of Beijing, rather than forced sightseeing. Travelogues became of Olympic TV when ABC's Roone Arledge invented the Olympic TV formula in the 1960s, when spanning the globe seemed exotic. But by the time CNN gave us Baghdad being bombed live in 1991, the novelty was gone. Still, it was only after NBC's wandering travelogues (albeit from fascinating Australia) for the 2000 Sydney Games that NBC cut back on forcing viewers back on the tour bus.” Hiestand offered in a USA Today report.

Hiestand continued his look at what NBC has done right and how they finally arrived were they are today: “Kids today might assume there was always lots of live Olympic action on various channels — even if the best action is still held for all-important prime time — because the idea seems obvious. But it was a long march to get it, though every moment of live Olympic action has been available to national Olympic TV rights-holder for decades.

“Many people probably didn't know that all-encompassing world TV coverage was being kept from them until NBC tried to sell it to them with its "Olympic Triplecast" of the 1992 Barcelona Games, a $125 TV package that almost nobody bought. And even after CBS offered free supplemental cable TV Olympic action for the 1994 Lillehammer Games, NBC offered none for its wildly popular 1996 Atlanta Games. That rendered many top athletes, such as soccer's Mia Hamm, invisible.

“The trickle of supplemental cable TV coverage NBC began with the 2000 Games led to this year's debut of NBC putting the world TV feed being available online — something that's already happened in many other countries. Prime-time viewers used to be left in the dark about exactly what they were about to see and when, so they wouldn't channel-surf. Starting with the 2002 Salt Lake Games, NBC has been dropping more hints.

“After an irreverent cable TV skating show with Dick Button and Mary Carillo was a hit at the 2006 Torino Games, NBC's Beijing coverage has avoided being too earnest — even showing host Bob Costas outdoors.

“So now, NBC says there's no way that it will deviate from its routine of showing prime-time Olympic action on tape-delay in the Pacific and Mountain time zones — the regular formula it uses for entertainment shows — even if Michael Phelps is swimming for his eighth gold medal in Saturday's 4x100 medley relay. That's just not how they do things. When it comes to Olympic TV finally making sense, you need to be patient.”

When the Games end Sunday morning (Americans will see the Closing Ceremonies Sunday night hours after they’ve ended and many of the athletes will be on their way back to the United States) NBC will have had their Beijing expectations not only met but exceeded.

Neal told the USA Today’s Michael Hiestand NBC has been pretty happy with its Chinese hosts and story lines such as Michael Phelps. "I came to these Games with stratospheric expectations, and they've been exceeded," Neal says. "The planets were aligned."

Agreed the a great deal fell into place for NBC but the key was the table being set during the first week. The two marquee events from week one (swimming and gymnastics) where both held during the morning in Beijing – with the 12 hour time difference live in prime time on the American east coast. Sports makes for compelling television when it televised live. The last two Summer Olympics (Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004) where offered on a tape-delay basis for the most part by NBC – that didn’t work in delivering record ratings numbers.

News earlier this week that ESPN/ABC and the Fox network are interested in bidding for the rights to the 2014 Winter Games (scheduled to be held in Sofia, Russia) and the yet to be awarded 2016 Summer Games could push the rights for the next available Olympic quadrennial to the stratosphere. The interest ESPN/ABC and Fox have in the Olympic Games doesn’t come as a surprise to industry insiders.

On June 7, 2003 The New York Times Richard Sandomir reported that: NBC Sports held on to its Olympic franchise by winning a three-way auction for the United States media rights to the 2010 and 2012 Olympic Games with a record bid of $2 billion. It was augmented by a nearly $200 million deal for General Electric, NBC's parent, to become a worldwide Olympic sponsor. The bid was made even though the sites for those Games have not yet been determined.

NBC outbid offers made by the News Corporation's Fox network and by ABC and ESPN, which are owned by the Walt Disney Company.

The price for TV rights exceeded by 33 percent the $1.5 billion that NBC paid for the 2006 and 2008 Olympics. Including the G.E. Olympic sponsorship deal, the bid at its maximum means that the Olympic committee will receive 47 percent more for the Games in 2010 and 2012 than in 2006 and 2008.

It remains to be seen which city will host the 2016 Summer Games. The right to host the 2016 Summer Games will be decided on October 9, 2009 (a little over a year from now), at the IOC Congress in Copenhagen Denmark.

Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo have been selected to the shortlist and will compete to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Baku, Doha and Prague were eliminated June 5, 2008. It remains to be seen where the 2016 Games will be held but logic (and money) dictates the 2016 Games will be held in Chicago. If an American city hosts the Summer Games for the first time since Atlanta Games in 1996. The IOC could generate as much as $3 billion for the 2014 Winter Games and 2016 Summer Games.

According to published reports when NBC reached their rights agreement for the next quadrennial NBC paid $820 million for the 2010 Winter Games and $1.18 billion for the 2012 Summer Olympics. G.E. sweetened its investment by becoming a worldwide Olympic sponsor (the TOP program), which will cost $160 million to $200 million.

Using those figures as a barometer if rights where awarded after the 2016 Games are awarded (unlikely but very possible) and the Games are awarded to Chicago the IOC could realize $1 billion for American rights to the 2014 Games and……$2 billion for the rights to the 2016 Chicago Games.

SBN’s belief that the 2016 Games are destined for Chicago – all one needs to do is follow the cookie crumbs the IOC has left. The 2012 Games are being held in London. Back-to-back Summer Games in Europe all but eliminates Madrid. The 2000 Games where held in Sydney, the 2008 Games in Beijing again it just doesn’t make sense to award another Summer Games to that geographical region. As for Rio de Janeiro – the Summer Games have never been held in South America, but the 2014 World Cup will be held in Brazil. The IOC won’t award the Summer Games to the country that is playing host to the 2014 World Cup. That would be bad business.

The Olympics are a hot TV property again thanks to NBC. Under the leadership of Dick Ebersol the Olympics have become a stand and deliver property for NBC. Ebersol was named chairman of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics in May 2005, after serving as chairman of NBC Sports & Olympics since June 1998. He is responsible for all sports programming on the NBC and USA networks, along with overseeing every aspect of NBC Universal’s involvement with the Olympic Games.

ESPN/ABC and Fox may be interested but all they’re going to do is push the price for the 2014 Games and 2016 Games up. At the end of the day as far as Dick Ebersol is concerned NBC has to have the Olympic Games. Thanks to the results NBC produced in Beijing Dick Ebersol will be ready and waiting for the IOC with a blank check when they come calling looking to sell the rights to the 2014 and 2016 Games.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: The New York Times and the USA Today.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Gene Upshaw – a Giant among men

The sports industry, the National Football League Players Association and the National Football League lost a giant Thursday when the NFLPA announced that the long time NFLPA executive director and Football Hall of Fame member Gene Upshaw pass away Wednesday evening .Upshaw had pancreatic cancer, the football league said. He was 63.

"We are deeply saddened and shocked by the sudden and unexpected death of our leader, Gene Upshaw," the players' union said on its Web site.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Terri, and their three sons -- Eugene, Justin and Daniel. Gene learned he was sick just this past Sunday and he died with his family at his side."

Upshaw died Wednesday night at his home in Lake Tahoe, California, the union said, according to The Associated Press.

Upshaw had been involved with the union as a player before taking on the role of executive director 25 years ago.

He participated in negotiations of the 1977, 1982 and 1993 collective bargaining agreements between the players association and the league and was involved in extensions of the agreement in 1998, 2002 and 2006, the NFL said.

Hosting HBO’s Real Sports in August 2006 Bryant Gumbel on the eve of Paul Tagliabue’s retirement as NFL commissioner suggested he believed Upshaw had served at the pleasure of Tagliabue for the 17 years the two men have worked together.

"Before he cleans out his office, have Paul Tagliabue show you where he keeps Gene Upshaw's leash. By making the docile head of the players union his personal pet, your predecessor has kept the peace without giving players the kind of guarantees other pros take for granted. Try to make sure no one competent ever replaces Upshaw on your watch."

As offensive as Gumbel’s remarks were then as they are now, it’s well worth considering what Gene Upshaw accomplished as head of the NFLPA. Has Gene Upshaw stood and delivered for the membership he’s represented?

"When you look at the issues and the recent round of CBA negotiations and what actually happened, ask the owners if they have Gene on a leash or if they control Gene. Ask them if they're happy with the CBA agreement and Gene's subservience.

"How many owners have come out and said they got the worse end of the deal? When you know the truth about something and you hear the opposite enough times, it really grates on you. That's where I'm at.''

Smith who retired in 2001 has remained an active member of the NFLPA severing voluntarily on the NFLPA's card committee, which regulates and disciplines agents.

"The consensus is that Gene had his finest hour in the last CBA negotiations,'' Robert Smith said, "But when you have loudmouths like Stephen A. Smith and Gumbel going off like they have -- and Smith has said, 'Gene Upshaw should be fired, and he's a crook' -- that perception stays out there and starts to leak into players' minds. And it can be damaging. I know, because I was a player once and I was against Gene and felt like he wasn't doing the job. But I was converted. Those are your most powerful allies, the ones who used to be against you and have been brought around to see a different viewpoint.''

While Smith clearly is in Gene Upshaw’s corner today, that wasn’t the case when he began taking an active role in the NFLPA as Smith told’s Don Banks.

"I became the Vikings player rep in part to get rid of Gene,'' Smith said.”Jack Del Rio got involved with the union for the same reason. But once I was informed, I came to realize the job he was doing for the entire union.

"Everybody wants to focus on the NFL not having guaranteed contracts. But the truth is, if contracts were guaranteed, owners would make them a lot shorter and the dollars would go down. People mistakenly think the structure of current deals would carry over to those deals, but there's no way they would.''

Smith doesn’t have any issue with Paul Tagliabue and Gene Upshaw having the ability to work together.

"It bothers me that that perception is still out there, even if it's a small number of people,'' Smith said.”Even when [Vikings center] Matt Birk comes out and says what he said [criticizing Upshaw before a CBA deal was struck in March], those are dangerous voices because they're recognized as being intelligent voices. But they're still uninformed regarding the issues.

As a football player, Upshaw has earned the ultimate honor, enshrinement into the Football Hall of Fame. Upshaw was also selected as a member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary team and a member of the 1970’s all-decade team. He was a man among men on the football field.

Upshaw was in charge of the NFLPA in 1987, when the union went on strike early in the regular season. The owners’ reactions – the replacements. The strike was a disaster for the NFLPA. The networks televised the games, treating the games as they did before the as if these hastily assembled teams were the same quality as the veterans who were out on strike. Faced with cracks in its members' support and the willingness of the networks to broadcast the games, the union voted to go back to work on October 15, 1987. It filed a new antitrust suit that same day.

The Court of Appeals ultimately rejected that suit on the ground that the labor exemption from antitrust liability protected the employers, even though the union was no longer party to a collective bargaining agreement that would have permitted the practices that the union was challenging. In response, the union formally disclaimed any interest in representing NFL players in collective bargaining and reformed itself as a professional organization in 1989. Having done that, the following year union members, led by Freeman McNeil of the New York Jets, brought a new antitrust action against the NFL challenging its free agency rules as an unlawful restraint of trade.

The players ultimately prevailed, after a jury trial on their claims, in that action. That verdict, the pendency of other antitrust cases and the threat of a class action filed by Reggie White, then with the Philadelphia Eagles, on behalf of all NFL players brought the parties back to the negotiating table. They finally agreed on a formula that permitted free agency in return for salary caps tied to a formula based on players' share of total league revenues.

Since 1987 the National Football League and its players have enjoyed immense growth on every level. As a business the NFL has become an economic engine. All one has to consider is when the rights fees the NFL earns from his broadcast partners are added up ($3.7 billion annually); the total exceeds that of all the other sports combined.

The NFLPA was near bankruptcy when Upshaw took control 23 years ago. The NFLPA now has $163 million in the bank. NFL players are now guaranteed 59.5 percent of league revenues, the highest of any of the four major North American sports leagues. More importantly the recently negotiated collective bargaining agreement dramatically improved the pension benefits not only current NFL players will enjoy but their long retired brothers in arms.

Upshaw hasn’t (nor should he) dignify Gumbel’s remarks. However, two years ago in an interview with The Philadelphia Daily News’ Paul Domowitch, Upshaw discussed his relationship with Paul Tagliabue.

"Paul and I have had discussions about how people perceive us," Upshaw says. "We have a relationship where we can just sit down and talk without even talking about business. We can talk about the history (of the game). About what he's been through, what I've been through. All of those things are why we've had success . . .

"Probably the most important thing Paul has done is kept us out of the courtroom. He knew and I knew that if we stayed out of the courtroom and used the assets, which is the players, we could grow the game in a way that is unbelievable. And that's what's happened."

Hall of Fame Oakland Raiders coach John Madden, a tremendous judge of character began and ended with Upshaw on the Raiders roster, knew Upshaw was destined for greatness.

"You just knew Gene Upshaw was eventually going to go on to something great," Madden told ESPN from his Bay Area office. "We'd take trips to our capital at Sacramento and I'd watch him moving among those politicians and just marvel. Sometimes, sort of half-kidding, half-serious, I used to call him 'Governor,' because that's what I always guessed he'd be."

Consider how Upshaw’s contemporaries have done while they’ve been entrusted sports other major sports leagues. Billy Hunter and the National Basketball Association Players Association where forced to accept maximum salaries from the NBA in January 1999. Under Bob Goodenow’s ‘leadership’ the National Hockey League lost an entire season. By the time the National Hockey League Players Association came back to the NHL hat in hand in July 2005, management won every issue they wanted save for a few.

The Major League Baseball Players Association with all due respect remains a Tour de Force. The MLBPA has never lost any CBA negotiation with MLB owners. The difference between the successes the MLBPA have enjoyed has everything to do with the lack of resolve baseball owners have, then the effectiveness first Marvin Miller and then Donald Fehr and the MLBPA. NHL owners proved if the resolve of ownership is strong enough, owners ultimately will force the players to accept a salary cap and similar conditions that exist in the other major sports. In simplistic terms, MLB owners don’t have the intestinal fortitude to go toe-to-toe with the MLBPA. Until the owners become united as one, the MLBPA will always be able to control the owners.

Upshaw experienced first hand in 1987 how single minded NFL owners could be. Gene Upshaw learnt a hard lesson; he realized he could better serve his membership by working inside the system, with the NFL as partners, as opposed to the adversarial relationship that was standard operating procedures in the other sports.

"When Paul took over, one of the first things he did was call me and said, `Let's get together for dinner.' We met at a little (Washington D.C.) restaurant up on Columbia Road. From that point on, that's been the difference.

"We have agreed on a lot of things and we have disagreed on a lot of things. But it's nobody else's business. It doesn't advance his cause or my cause to have the Washington Post or the New York Times or the Philadelphia Daily News making a headline out of it, when the real issue is how do we solve the problem, rather than become the problem.

"It's never been about either one of us trying to one-up the other. It's always been what we can do to make our product better and to grow it. If people don't understand that it’s their problem, not ours."

Upshaw made it clear to The New York Times Damon Hack several years ago he believes he and Tagliabue serve as ‘guardians of the game’.

"The beauty of the relationship is that we have a common interest in getting it out of the game, whether it's Balco, steroids, whatever," Upshaw said of his work with Tagliabue.

"We understand how delicate it is for our product to be in a situation where the fans don't show up because they have no confidence in the game. When you look at the drug policy, our players don't want it in the game. When the baseball players don't want it in the game, it will get out. That's what happened with us. This is the only area in which the football players basically gave the owners the right for random testing because they wanted it out of the game."

Harold Henderson (an African-American), chairman of the NFL Management Council, and the league's executive vice president of labor relations since 1991, believes Upshaw stood and delivered in the latest round of negotiations with the league.

"He knows how to set his sights on his goal and pursue it -- relentlessly," Henderson said earlier this month. "He wanted a bigger piece of the pie for the players. Some of us took the position that revenue sharing might be good for league but it's none of your business. You know, 'You just go ahead and make a labor deal.'

"I think some people thought he was arguing but not really committed to the principle. Suddenly, it started to dawn on people that the guy really means it. Over time, he spoke with more and more owners.

"In the end, they were believers."

Consider this when you’re trying to evaluate what Gene Upshaw has accomplished. In 1994 the first year the NFL instituted a salary cap; teams had a spending limit of $34.6 million. A dozen years later, the NFL salary cap for the 2006 season stands at $102 million and teams have a salary floor (minimum team payroll) of $75 million. In 1994 the average NFL salary was $627,000. Ten years later the average NFL salary doubled to $1.26 million in 2004. Is there a union leader anywhere who can claim under his watch the average salary has increased by 100 percent in ten years?

Historically since Marvin Miller left the Steelworkers of America to become the first full time executive director for the MLBPA the relationship between owners and players in the sports industry has been regressive, not progressive.

How far as the NFLPA advanced as a union, in establishing a working partnership with management? Consider these comments Upshaw shared with ESPN days after the NFLPA and the NFL agreed on labor peace at least through the 2009 VFL season.

"We have another 10 stadiums we still need to build," says Upshaw, whose union is the only one in professional sports that has invested money in the construction of new venues. "Until we can get that done, those teams aren't going to grow. Minnesota, Oakland, San Francisco, San Diego . . . that group at the bottom (of the revenue scale) are all in old stadiums. I've been around long enough to remember when they opened all those stadiums, and we thought they were great. Now, they're a piece of crap and need to be replaced."
The football industry mourned today as one in paying their respects to a true titan of industry.

"The Raider organization, the National Football League, and the world have lost a great man. Gene Upshaw's career successes as a professional football player and a union leader are unparalleled. He is as prominent a sportsman as the world has known. He was and will remain a part of the fabric of our lives and of the Raider mystique and legacy. We loved him and he loved us. We will miss him. Our hearts go out to Terri and the boys." — Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis.

"Gene Upshaw did everything with great dignity, pride, and conviction. He was the rare individual who earned his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame both for his accomplishments on the field and for his leadership of the players off the field." — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

"It is a sad day for the NFL, but Gene's positive impact and legacy will live on for decades to come." — Goodell.

"Gene was a true pioneer as one of the few African American leaders of a major union. He was the equal of owners in negotiations and made the league a better place for all players. Playing alongside of Gene was an honor and a privilege. He was a pillar of strength and leadership for our great Raider teams." — Former Oakland Raiders player and coach Art Shell, and his wife Janice.

"Gene Upshaw was a good friend, an inspiring leader and a tireless and effective champion of players in the NFL. I can't imagine a world without Gene's larger than life presence." — former NFLPA assistant executive director Doug Allen.

"Few people in the history of the National Football League have played the game as well as Gene and then had another career in football with so much positive impact on the structure and competitiveness of the entire league as Gene. In both careers, if you hit him in the head, he could hit you back twice as hard — but he didn't always do so. He was very tough but also a good listener. He never lost sight of the interests of the game and the big picture." — former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

"It's not polite to speak ill of the dead and I hope his soul is at peace in heaven. But he was a mean-spirited man, who disregarded the plight of many of his former colleagues, who sought improved pension and medical benefits. However, he did a lot for the current players. They owe their salaries to Gene Upshaw." — attorney James Acho, who represented several former NFL players in grievances against the NFLPA, seeking improved pension and medical benefits.

"People can say what they want to say about Gene. They didn't like him. He was too brash. He didn't stroke them the right way. But Gene always told you the truth. Gene got the job done when it boils down to it. His legacy will go on forever." — NFLPA president and Tennessee Titans center Kevin Mawae.

"If you look at the history of the NFL you're going to find out that he was one of the most influential people that the league has known. He did so much, not only for the players, but also for the owners, the teams, and the game of pro football. In that, he is obviously going to be missed. He was respected by everyone, because as a player he was a tough guy, and as the union head he was a tough guy. But he was also smart, and he could compromise, and he could make things happen." — NBC broadcaster and Upshaw's coach with the Raiders John Madden.

"He always treated people with respect and dignity. He always was able to keep things in perspective, and maintained a positive attitude. While he was a strong advocate for the players, at the end of the day, he really wanted to do what was right for the game." — Green Bay Packers president and former NFLPA assistant executive director Mark Murphy.

"His union leadership has been one of the key factors to the exponential growth that the league and all of its players have enjoyed over the past two decades. Gene represented the players the way I would want to be represented: with understanding, integrity and a steadfast commitment to doing what was right for them and what was best for the game." — New England Patriots chairman Robert Kraft.

"After his long career as a player, he dedicated his efforts to tirelessly working to improve the salaries, benefits and working conditions of generations of NFL players. We talked often about common issues, and I will miss those conversations." — Major League Baseball players' union head Donald Fehr.

"I think he was a good guy. ... You don't always have to agree with everything somebody does to respect them." — Former NFL player and coach Mike Ditka, on ESPN Radio.

"I think any player who touched our game the last 20 years has been positively influenced by his leadership. Whether it be raising the minimums for rookies, whether it be for veterans, whether it be for retired players, you name it, you continue to look back over the last 20 years and he's done nothing but improve the game for players. Everybody can sit back, and obviously, some people might criticize some of the things he's done, but overall, I don't think you could have asked for a better leader." — Colts center and player rep Jeff Saturday.

"You won't find a better person in terms of taking care of former players than Gene Upshaw. Gene would do whatever is best for the players. You hear all the older players who gripe and complain that we should have better this or better that, they wouldn't have what they have today if not for Gene Upshaw." — Former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Willie Brown.

"It really took my breath away when I saw the message come across my desk. I just stopped and immediately thought about all the times that we played against each other. We didn't like each other when we played against each other. But he was a tremendous athlete, a tremendous leader, not only an inspiration for the Raiders — did I mention that we didn't like the Raiders? — and then just his leadership in the NFLPA." — Redskins coach Jim Zorn.

Gene Upshaw a true giant among men.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics – catching up with Michael Phelps

When Sports Business News last visited Michael Phelps yours truly told The Wall Street Journal Nike would cast their eyes lovingly on Phelps and by the time their courtship with Phelps was over Phelps could sign a multi -year agreement with the sport industries biggest brand name in excess of $50 million. We’ll focus on why Nike, Speedo and Adidas are all destined to become involved in a bidding war for the swimmers services next week. Today we’ll catch up with the man who won eight gold medals in Beijing. It’s been a busy few days since Phelps claimed his eighth Beijing gold medal Saturday evening (Sunday morning) in Beijing.

"Michael Phelps is going to have no problem from here on out," said Scott Sanford, managing director at the Dallas-based Davie-Brown talent group in an ESPN report. "He will have star power."

"He has transcended himself into a position that is going to sustain him for a long time," Sanford said. "He has separated himself from just being a swimmer."

For Phelps Beijing was truly an all or nothing proposition. Win the eight gold medals and the world would be his. Win seven gold medals (or less) he’d have his 15 minutes of fame but his road wouldn’t be paved with gold.

"Marketing potential is such a tough question," Evan Morgenstein Mark Spitz’s wrote in an e-mail from Beijing to ESPN. "It's defined by whether he is thought of by performance or stature/story. If America believes his struggle to achieve eight golds has a broader good than just victories, he will earn millions of dollars forever."

The key remains for Phelps agents to strike while the iron is hot – leverage the opportunity their client has provided them with.

The August 25 edition of Sports Illustrated features a smiling Michel Phelps with his Beijing hardware draped around his neck. The cover reprises a 1972 Sports Illustrated cover that honored Mark Spitz after he won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Games. It was back-to-back SI covers for Phelps. He was featured on the magazine’s August 18 edition cover as well. Now if that where it – everyone would be missing the big picture. SI’s July 28 Beijing preview edition cover had Phelps on its cover.

Three times in four weeks is amazing for any athlete. Phelps has also appeared on SI’s covers on February 3, 2005, August 23, 2004 and August 2, 2004 (SI’s Athens Olympic preview).

Phelps has left Beijing (he won’t be carrying the American flag in Sunday’s closing ceremonies). Phelps arrives in Baltimore today (he won’t be home very long). Phelps as one sports agent suggested might be well advised to remember his B-More roots.

"Some of the big companies like Octagon are very global and they have to be careful with that," said John Maroon, who runs a public relations firm in Baltimore and has worked with Ripken in various capacities for the past 13 years. "They have to be careful with that or it's going to reflect on Michael. His brand and his worth can just keep going and going. Baltimore is a town that really embraces its own if its own embraces it."

"Right now, it seems like the biggest thing in the world and we'll be talking about this for years and years," Maroon said. "I like Michael and I wish him the best, but the truth is that people move on.

"He needs to strike while the iron is hot."

London’s 2012 Olympics begin on July 27, 2012 and run through August 12, 2012. London Olympic organizing officials working with Visa (one of the International Olympic Committee’s TOP sponsors) has arranged for Phelps to be in London Sunday to participate in part of the official ‘handoff’ when Beijing’s mayor hands the Olympic flag to London’s mayor symbolizing the passing of the Olympic Games from Beijing to London.

Representatives of the 2012 team, including the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, will be in Beijing to collect the flag and be part of an eight minute section of the closing ceremony when London will look forward to the next Summer Games. David Beckham and singer Leona Lewis are rumored to be part of the ceremony.

Rumors aside – Michael Phelps will be front and center Sunday in London.

Phelps, who is the most successful Olympian of all time with 14 gold medals in total, said: "It will be a great opportunity to celebrate the success of the Beijing Games and kick off the countdown to London 2012."

Steven Levitt, whose company, Marketing Evaluations Inc., devises Q scores to measure celebrity appeal offered The Baltimore Sun a look at Phelps before he won eight gold medals.

Only 39 percent of those polled in March were familiar with Phelps and, of those, 22 percent considered him a favorite performer, Levitt said. Tiger Woods, for example, was familiar to 89 percent of those polled and viewed favorably by 48 percent of that group. Levitt expects Phelps' numbers to rise dramatically in next spring's study.

By surpassing Mark Spitz, Phelps transcended sport in a way that few athletes ever do. His story headlined national news broadcasts for a week. Celebrity news publications and programs such as US Weekly, Inside Edition and have taken an interest in his personal life. One posting on the movie-geek Web site Ain't It Cool News said Phelps should look into playing Marvel Comics' superhero Sub- Mariner. "He is a man from Atlantis," gushed the site's creator, Harry Knowles.

On another Internet frontier, more than 1 million people have signed up to be fans at Facebook.

Bob Dorfman, who makes a living looking at the marketing potential of Olympians for Baker Street Partners of San Francisco knows Phelps is the real deal.

"I can't see any other story surpassing his," Dorfman told The Baltimore Sun. "People just can't believe what he's been doing. There is a superhuman aspect to it. From that standpoint, he's hard to top."

"He is much bigger than his sport," said Dorfman, who could see Dancing With the Stars coming after Phelps or MTV building a new reality program around him.

"It could be Michael Phelps teaching other celebrities to swim like Olympians or I don't know what," Dorfman said. "But he's at the level where I could see people imagining stuff like that around him."

One deal that Phelps handlers have worked out since Saturday – Phelps is about to become best friends with Tony the Tiger.

Phelps can add one more milestone to the list. After earning eight gold medals in the 2008 Olympic Games, Michael Phelps has earned a place of honor on the front of specially-marked Kellogg's Frosted Flakes(R) and Kellogg's Corn Flakes(R) cereal boxes.

The gold medal winning Olympic champion from Baltimore, Maryland will be featured on Kellogg's Corn Flakes and Kellogg's Frosted Flakes cereal packages that are expected to hit grocery store shelves across the U.S. in mid-September. The boxes will feature images of Phelps during what were some of the most memorable moments of this summer's Olympic Games.

"As an Official Sponsor of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team and a proud sponsor of Phelps, it is only fitting that Kellogg Company feature this world-class athlete on its iconic boxes of Kellogg's Corn Flakes and Kellogg's Frosted Flakes cereals," said Marta Cyhan, Vice President, Global Promotions, Kellogg Company. "Michael embodies the values behind our Frosted Flakes Earn Your Stripes(TM) program. He knows that winning is not just about the glory that comes with gold medals, but about good sportsmanship, working hard and being your best."

What makes this agreement “interesting” Phelps being married to Tony the Tiger as opposed to Wheaties. According to several published reports Michael passed on the traditional Wheaties box because his breakfast of champions is sugar-drenched Kellogg's Frosted Flakes.

Before Phelps left Beijing Tuesday he did take one final lap of a pool and of course it was linked to an endorsement agreement. And of course Phelps final Beijing swim wasn’t in the Games Water Cube.

The 16-time Olympic medalist took to the pool at the Hilton Beijing to swim the 6,250th and final lap of the "Hilton Swim to Beijing Relay," a multi-city charitable event contributing $100,000 to the USA Swimming Foundation to fund swim education programs across the United States.

In celebration of the 2008 Olympic Games, Hilton Hotels & Resorts partnered with the USA Swimming Foundation and embarked on an ambitious relay of 6,250 laps - each lap symbolizing one of the miles between Los Angeles, the relay's starting point, and Beijing. The "Hilton Swim to Beijing Relay" began with a splash at the Hilton Universal City in Los Angeles where Phelps swam the initial lap in November 2007. After making its way through five U.S. cities, the "Hilton Swim to Beijing Relay" concluded with a ceremonial final lap by Phelps in the pool of the Hilton Beijing following his final competition of the 2008 Olympic Games.
"After representing my country and competing in the Olympics, Hilton gave me another great reason to get back in the pool," said Phelps. "By being a part of this campaign I'm able to help support swim education programs across the nation and give young people the chance to experience the power of the sport. Swimming is much more than a fun activity and great form of exercise. It teaches self-discipline and dedication--two important qualities that one can draw on to succeed both in and out of the pool."

Phelps list of sponsors include:

Phelps' sponsors, according to his agents at Octagon, which declined to specify the value of the deals:

Speedo USA: maker of swimsuits, a licensed brand of the Warnaco Group Inc.

Visa Inc.: credit card company

Omega: luxury watchmaker, a unit of Swatch Group AG

Hilton Hotels Corp.: hotel chain

PowerBar: nutrition bar from Swiss chocolate maker Nestle SA.

AT&T Inc.: communications provider

Kellogg Co.: maker of Frosted Flakes, Cheez-Its and Eggo waffles

Rosetta Stone Ltd.: language-learning software maker

PureSport: sports performance beverage, made by Human Performance Labs Internet site for swimmers

In the four days since Phelps date with destiny arrived there remain plenty of naysayers who simply don’t believe Michael Phelps will enjoy long-term success in the corporate marketplace.

"It is possible but unlikely for the simple reason that swimming commands our attention only once every four years, while Tiger and LeBron enjoy weekly, even daily coverage during their respective seasons," said John Davis, a professor of marketing at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business at Singapore Management University in an MSNBC report. His book "The Olympic Games Effect — How Sports Marketing Builds Strong Brands" was published this month.

"Swimming is really not the topic of our typical sports conversations once the Olympics end, so sustained visibility will be a challenge for Phelps," Davis added. In fact, once the Olympic torch is extinguished, football — both college and pro — will dominate the national conversation.

At the same time, Davis notes, Phelps' accomplishments are so stupendous he will attract a slew of suitors.

"Companies that become sports sponsors, whether of athletes, teams or events, want to associate with greatness," he said. "We love good stories, and Michael Phelps is one of the best, so he is a natural attraction for companies."

All good points – and as Davis told MSNBC the key – Phelps being front and center enjoying and maximizing his new found fame.

"For Phelps to have staying power his agent needs to work overtime to place Michael on the various shows (Letterman, Leno, and so on) while, at the same time, not saturating the market with Phelps," he pointed out. "It is a tough balancing act."

The news – its all good for Michael Phelps, the time is now, the moment is right, time to ride his train bound for glory – sponsorship glory!!

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: CNBC, Forbes, The Baltimore Sun

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