Welcome to Sportico’s Transactions wire, a weekly rundown of personnel, partnerships and products across the sports business industry.
SimWin Sports Adds to Advisory Board
SimWin Sports has appointed Paul Johnson of Orion Business Advisors to its advisory board. Johnson, who previously worked at the PGA Tour and Electronic Arts, will focus on digital media and team sales, along with international broadcast and streaming. At Electronic Arts (EA), he developed external partnerships to grow the business, enhanced EA’s media footprint via partnerships with Twitch, ESPN, Turner, Fox, and Endeavor. In addition, he co-designed improved competition structures and formed key tournament operator partnerships. At the PGA Tour, Johnson led all facets of the digital business, driving growth in digital audiences and revenues. He oversaw the video game license and relationship with EA, including partnering with SimWin Sports CMO Tom Goedde to launch and promote the EA Sports Tiger Woods PGA Tour video game franchise.
NBA Africa Names Head of NBA Egypt
NBA Africa has brought on Mohamed Abdel-Motaleb Soliman as vice president and head of NBA Egypt, where the league’s fourth office on the continent will open in early 2023. Soliman, who most recently served as vice president of the Egyptian Basketball Federation and deputy secretary general of the Egyptian Olympic Committee, will lead the office in Cairo and report to NBA Africa CEO Victor Williams. Soliman, a former captain of the Egyptian National Basketball Team, Olympian and accomplished executive with more than 20 years of commercial and manufacturing experience, will oversee the league’s basketball and business development initiatives in Egypt, including grassroots programming for youth and elite players; relationships with current and prospective marketing, media and merchandise partners; and social responsibility efforts across the country.
U.S. Doping Agency Adds Operations and Innovation Head
John Bobo has joined USADA as chief operating and innovation officer. Bobo has previously worked as VP of racing operations at NASCAR and, earlier in his career, as the director of the office of drug and alcohol policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation. His most recent position was VP of business development, sports and research partnerships at Oura.
General Sports Worldwide Promotes Three
General Sports Worldwide has promoted three executives in its executive search and team consulting division: Lou DePaoli moves to president, Travis Apple becomes executive vice president and Kayla Lawson is now senior manager. The division provides business operations consulting, executive search, leadership and sales training, and growth in the career development platform theClubhouse that was acquired in March 2022.
USFL Hires NFL Advisor to Lead Player Health and Safety
The USFL announced Dr. Jim Ellis as its first chief medical officer. Ellis will identify and structure new medical partnerships in current and future USFL cities and collaborate with team coaches, general managers, and athletic training staffs, as well as with already established expert medical advisors and partners across the league. Ellis joins the USFL from the NFL, where he continues as the emergency preparedness consultant for NFL Player Health and Safety.
PlayOn! Sports Brings on Former Turner Sports Executive
PlayOn! Sports, the holding company for the NFHS Network and GoFan has hired former Turner Sports COO Matt Hong as its president and COO. In his new role, he will lead the company’s revenue and growth functions, as well as the company’s numerous state association and school partnerships. At Turner Sports, Hong oversaw the acquisition and programming of numerous events including the NBA, March Madness, MLB, NASCAR, the PGA Championship and UEFA Champions League across the networks of TBS and TNT.
QuintEvents Announces Executive Leadership Changes
QuintEvents—a provider of official ticket, hospitality, and travel experiences—has hired Brian Ruede as chief executive officer. Over the past nine years, Ruede has served in various roles at Quint, including his most recent position as president/COO. The changeover will go into effect Jan. 1, as CEO Brian Learst transitions into his new role as executive chairman. As president/COO, Ruede has played an integral role in Quint’s domestic and international expansion through strategic leadership with existing properties as well as the integration of several new acquisitions around the world. In recent years the company has seen long-term contract renewals with both the Kentucky Derby and Formula 1, as well as new multiyear agreements with MotoGP and the NBA. Ruede has led the team in the development of Quint’s proprietary technology, QE360.
Boston Marathon Links Up for Sponsor Search
The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) has pegged marketing agency Sportfive to lead its search for a new primary sponsor for the Boston Marathon starting in 2024. As part of the partnership, Sportfive will serve as the B.A.A.’s exclusive agency to identify and secure the deal. Sportfive has worked with the Boston Athletic Association for over 30 years in every aspect of the Boston Marathon’s television production, from distribution, streaming and archive sales, and as an executive producer of three telecasts of the marathon—local, national and international.
Combat Zone Wrestling Strikes Streaming Deal
Combat Zone Wrestling has found a new home on Premier Streaming Network (PSN). The multi-year agreement will allow Combat Zone’s live events, as well as the company’s extensive catalog of previous shows, to stream exclusively on Premier Streaming Network when the network launches in early 2023. Along with all 2023 CZW events, fans will also be able to access some of CZW’s annual events like Cage of Death, Tournament of Death, Best of the Best and The Chri$ CaSh Memorial Show.
FC Barcelona, WhiteBit Ink Global Partnership
FC Barcelona and WhiteBIT have signed a new global partnership agreement, which will make the platform the club’s Official Cryptocurrency Exchange partner for three seasons. This partnership furthers Barça’s commercial strategy, with the aim of consolidating its international expansion. The platform will obtain rights of association with the men’s and women’s football teams, as well as the basketball, handball, roller hockey and futsal teams. The partners plan to create digital content to raise awareness about both entities among the general public and to generate higher engagement with Barça fans.
Ashworth Golf Brings Back Legacy Endorser
World Golf Hall of Famer Fred Couples, who was outfitted in one of Ashworth’s classic polos when he won the Masters in 1992, has signed on to once again wear the company’s apparel in appearances on the Champions tour and other professional events around the world. Couples will showcase a selection of items from the Spring and Fall 2023 lines, which feature a modern-day version of the original cotton polos from Ashworth, combining technical fabrics with natural fibers while offering a classic look.
Topgolf Callaway and First Tee Expand Partnership
The youth development organization First Tee and Topgolf Callaway Brands Corp. are expanding their longtime partnership to help First Tee programs reach underserved and underrepresented communities, including network-wide access to Topgolf. Topgolf Callaway Brands has been supporting First Tee since 2001, and it will now become a First Tee Trustee. Founded in 1997, First Tee combines golf with a life skills curriculum to build inner strength, self-confidence and resilience in kids.
Holland America Line Named Cruise Line Partner of the Professional Pickleball Association
With pickleball taking off as the fastest growing sport in the country, Holland America Line is investing more in the sport and pledges to refresh all of its onboard courts by February 2023. Complimentary beginner lessons from Holland America’s onboard instructors will also be offered to introduce new players to the sport. In addition to these lessons, instructional “How to Play Pickleball” videos will be featured on in-stateroom TV programming. Guests will be able to purchase co-branded pickleball starter kits from retail shops on all ships starting next year.
USTA Grants Sky Sports UK and Ireland Rights to U.S. Open Through 2027
The USTA announced it has granted Sky Sports the exclusive live television and digital rights to the U.S. Open Tennis Championships in the United Kingdom and Ireland through 2027. The new agreement will begin with the 2023 tournament. Sky Sports will have access to all individual court feeds, broadcasting a minimum of 135 hours of competition throughout the two weeks of main draw play. Across Sky Sports’ linear channels and on Sky Sports digital and social channels, extensive coverage will provide content for both existing tennis fans and new audiences. The agreement includes coverage of men’s and women’s singles and doubles, mixed doubles, juniors and wheelchair competitions. Sky Sports previously held broadcast rights to the U.S. Open between 1991 and 2015.
Jordan Spieth Invests in Invited, Joins as Partner and Brand Ambassador
Invited and three-time major winner Jordan Spieth announced a strategic partnership in which Invited receives an investment from Spieth, and Spieth signs on as a strategic advisor and brand ambassador of the company. Invited and the Jordan Spieth Family Foundation will also partner on a series of charitable and community efforts benefiting youth organizations, American veterans and military families. Additionally, Invited will host a series of fundraising events at Invited clubs across numerous states and create further member programming in order to raise funds for Spieth’s Foundation. Invited, formerly ClubCorp, is a lifestyle hospitality brand founded in 1957 on the traditions and values of acceptance. The company changed its name as part of a full rebrand in April of this year.
Underdog Fantasy Links with Cincinnati Reds as Market-Access Partner
Underdog Sport has been awarded a license by the Ohio Casino Control Commission to operate as an online sports betting service-provider in the state once legal wagering launches in 2023. Additionally, Underdog has reached an agreement with Major League Baseball’s Cincinnati Reds to be a market-access partner. Ohio is of several states where Underdog plans to roll out its innovative real-money sportsbook in the coming years, in addition to its daily fantasy products, to create deeper connections with sports fans across the country.
Margaritaville Joins Major League Pickleball as Title Sponsor
Major League Pickleball and Margaritaville announced title sponsorship of the fast-growing professional pickleball league, branding the league as “MLP by Margaritaville.” One of the largest commercial deals ever for MLP, Margaritaville will play a large part in the branding and strategy of on-site fan activations and immersive entertainment.
Fan Controlled Football Returns for Its Third Season
Fan Controlled Sports & Entertainment is bringing back Fan Controlled Football (FCF) for its third season in May 2023, becoming the first professional spring football league to return for a third season. FCF is the only professional sports league that empowers fans to make key decisions for their favorite team, including calling plays in real-time. This season, the weekly action will return to Atlanta, with games played at FCF’s venue. The league features eight teams owned and led by the likes of Richard Sherman, Austin Ekeler, Rachel Lindsay, Quavo, Renee Montgomery, Marshawn Lynch, Bored Ape Yacht Club, Druski, and Steve Aoki. Last Season, FCF games were broadcast and streamed live on Twitch, NBC LX, Peacock and DAZN. More than 200,000 fans registered to call plays and make key decisions for their favorite FCF team last year.
PHF Salary Cap to Double for 2023-24 Season to $1.5 Million Per Team
The Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) has announced a significant salary cap increase for next season, doubling the amount from $750,000 to $1.5 million per team in 2023-24. Heading into the league’s ninth season, it marks the third annual salary cap raise and represents 900% growth since 2021 when the cap was just $150,000 per team. On the ice, all seven PHF teams are currently populated by contracts that exceed 75% of the $750,000 cap. Off the ice, the PHF has generated landmark broadcast and corporate partnerships, the largest sponsorship revenues in its history, and increased digital viewership and engagement on all platforms over the past three seasons. Before the 2022-23 season, the PHF announced a new two-year agreement with ESPN that provides live coverage exclusively on ESPN+ in the U.S. and international rights for games which includes TSN in Canada. In January, the PHF announced a $25 million investment by the Board of Governors pledged to direct payments and benefits to players.