Welcome to Sportico’s Transactions wire, a weekly rundown of personnel, partnerships and purchases across the sports business industry
SportsBubble Brings on Two, COO and Head of Products
SportsBubble Inc. has hired Keith P. Hopkins as chief operating officer and Trinity Brocato as head of products. Both report to SportsBubble founder and CEO Lydia Murphy-Stephans, as the company looks to expand its business operations. Hopkins will oversee the company’s operations and spearhead new partnerships, while Brocato will take over the company’s product roadmap. Prior to joining SportsBubble, Hopkins was an SVP at Nexstar Media, where he oversaw content distribution and affiliate relations. Brocato is a seasoned digital media executive who previously served as SVP of operations and products for Gaming 24/7.
Wasserman Acquires Mullhaupt Management
Wasserman has acquired Mullhaupt Management and hired Chris Mullhaupt as VP. Mullhaupt brings his full roster of top women’s and men’s golfers to Wasserman’s golf division, including Nelly Korda, Jessica Korda, Curtis Luck, Doc Redman and Bud Cauley, among others. Long-time Korda family manager Patricio Apey will continue to work hand-in-hand with Wasserman and Mullhaupt in all aspects of the sisters’ careers moving forward. Prior to joining Wasserman, Mullhaupt was the founder of Mullhaupt Management, and he brings more than a decade of experience representing professional golfers.
The Arena Group Names SVP/GM of Sports
The Arena Group has hired Chris Pirrone to oversee the Sports Illustrated Media Group, anchored by Sports Illustrated and including FanNation, Morning Read and Athlon Sports. At USA Today Sports Media Group, Pirrone launched over 75 sports vertical sites and led a significant expansion of the publisher’s digital advertising business across digital, social and mobile as general manager. He also grew audiences from 10M to 60M monthly Comscore unique viewers and increased revenue to over $100M annually. Pirrone, who previously held positions at Traffic Marketplace and ValueClick, will start in June.
U.S. Integrity Adds to Board of Directors
Data-driven betting integrity monitor U.S. Integrity has appointed Nevada’s former First Lady Lauralyn Sandoval to its Board of Directors. Sandoval is currently vice president of new markets at Aristocrat Technologies, a gaming content and technology company. Sandoval has worked at IGT and Scientific Games in business building roles including technology, product, emerging markets and acquisitions. She is a co-founder, advisor and investor in various businesses. Sandoval serves on boards of the Davidson Academy for highly gifted students and Opportunity Village serving people with disabilities. She is an Honorary Board Member of the Women’s Research Institute.
Veteran Olympic Marketer Joins PointsBet
PointsBet has hired two marketing executives, Ansley O’Neal as VP for brand strategy and marketing, and Josh Powell as director of brand marketing. Prior to PointsBet, O’Neal managed some of the International Olympic Committee’s leading consumer-facing brands, and at PointsBet she will oversee the creation and implementation of the brand and marketing strategies from the ground up and will report to CMO Kyle Christensen. Powell, who will report to O’Neal, will work within the marketing function to design and execute campaigns across the sports betting space.
Smarkets Introduces U.S. General Manager Hire From Nike
Sports betting operator Smarkets has hired Sheldon Hanai as U.S. general manager to run its growing business in the United States. Hanai comes from Nike, where he spent nearly six years, rising to senior director level as the head of global innovation finance. He started his career with the U.S. Department of Defense before working at Google and BP. Smarkets’ sportsbook app, SBK, is live in Colorado and set to launch in Indiana and Iowa in the near future. Hanai will begin in the newly created role on June 13, and will work out of a new office in a soon-to-be-revealed East Coast location.
NBC Sports Taps an Olympics & Paralympics Producer
NBC Sports has hired Amy Rosenfeld as senior vice president, Olympics & Paralympics Production. Rosenfeld will oversee NBC Sports’ Olympics and Paralympics production in the host city as well as the growing at-home operation. She reports to Molly Solomon, executive producer and president, NBC Olympics & Paralympics Production. Rosenfeld has numerous large-scale international sporting events for ESPN, including its coverage of the men’s and women’s soccer World Cups, the X Games and Indy 500. Rosenfeld’s arrival allows Joe Gesue—senior vice president, NBC Olympics & Paralympics editorial, partnerships and programming and executive editor—to oversee programming, editorial and partnerships. In his new role, Gesue will work on project management, strategy and relationships as well as sales partnerships. NBCUniversal has U.S. media rights to the Olympic Games through 2032, which are scheduled for Paris (2024), Milan Cortina (2026), Los Angeles (2028) and Brisbane (2032). The host city for the 2030 Winter Olympics has not been chosen yet.
Just Women’s Sports Raises $6 Million From New and Returning Investors
Just Women’s Sports, the media platform dedicated to women’s sports, has raised $6 million from new and returning investors. The funding round was led by Blue Pool Capital, Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai’s family office. New investors include tennis icon Billie Jean King; Washington Spirit owner Michele Kang; Bolt Ventures, the family office of financier and team owner David Blitzer; SC Holdings; Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund; Muse Capital; Dapper Labs; and other institutional and angel investors. New additions to its roster of athlete investors include Allyson Felix, Abby Wambach, Sam Kerr, Lynn Williams, Paul Rabil and Apolo Ohno, among others. They join previous athlete investors Kelley O’Hara, Elena Delle Donne, Hilary Knight, Arike Ogunbowale and Sam Mewis. JWS’ first quarter revenue in 2022 was 4x its revenue from Q1 2021, and its staff has grown from four to 25. Just Women’s Sports’ original programming includes a series of athlete-hosted podcasts and video series, as well as social media, a website, a newsletter and live events.
U.S. Soccer and Chipotle Extend Deal
U.S. Soccer Federation has inked a multiyear partnership extension with Chipotle Mexican Grill, continuing the partnership that began in 2020 to make Chipotle the official Mexican restaurant of the U.S. Women’s and Men’s National Teams. As part of the agreement, Chipotle will remain the title sponsor of U.S. Soccer’s annual Chipotle Young Female and Young Male Player of the awards. Last year, the voting process for the awards was opened to fans via ussoccer.com for the first time, and the fan vote accounted for 15% of the overall tally. In addition, Chipotle will bring U.S. Soccer fans closer to their favorite National Team players via digital content collaborations. Chipotle will also highlight U.S. Soccer through its in-app rewards and special offers in the lead-up to some of the biggest upcoming international soccer events.
Sport-Tech Startups Picked for Future of Sport Lab
The Future of Sport Lab has accepted eight Canadian sport-tech startups into its incubator program. They were chosen for their work in athlete performance, fan engagement, venue technology and youth sports. Each will receive immersive programming in partnership with the Ted Rogers School of Management and incubator DMZ, access to leading academics, and an opportunity to engage and receive mentorship from leaders across MLSE and the greater FSL network. The companies are: BookSeats.com; Classlete, DIBZ, Drive Hockey Analytics, TheProgram.ai, TiptapSports and Vic Park Analytics.
Caesars Entertainment Partners With Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions
Caesars Entertainment has signed a multiyear strategic partnership with Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions. Caesars Sportsbook and Omaha will launch the Omaha Audio Network, a variety of new digital series developed specifically for Caesars Entertainment and Omaha Productions’ social media channels, and a live event series later this year. The Omaha Audio Network’s podcast lineup will feature sports personalities. New digital series that will live on Caesars Entertainment, Caesars Sportsbook and Omaha social media channels include “Mayne on the Street” with Caesars Sportsbook brand ambassador Kenny Mayne, “Celeb Shots” with Rachel DeMita, and “One More Round” with Cooper Manning. Caesars and Omaha will also create a live-event series for Caesars Rewards, which will give members the chance to interact directly with Omaha content creators and the Manning’s at select events.
Frost Extends Its Relationship With San Antonio Spurs
Spurs Sports & Entertainment extended the deal with Frost to be the naming rights partner for the new event plaza under construction at The Rock at La Cantera as part of a multiyear agreement. This move makes Frost the inaugural partner of the 45-acre, $500 million campus that includes a human performance research center, a 22-acre park, a Spurs performance center and space for medical, hospitality and office use, in addition to the public event plaza. It is scheduled to open in the summer of 2023. The Spurs and Frost first joined forces in 1973 when Tom C. Frost provided the financing necessary to move the franchise to San Antonio. In 2018, Frost marked another milestone when it became the team’s first-ever jersey sponsor.
Washington Spirit and AWS Make Sleeve Deal
The Washington Spirit have signed up Amazon Web Services as its official right sleeve partner for the 2022 regular season. This is AWS’ first sponsorship in the NWSL and is part of the team’s commitment to aligning with businesses that recognize the value of investing in women. AWS will round out the defending NWSL champions’ 10th Anniversary Kit partners alongside Ally and The Kennedy Center.
Major League Rugby Signs Deal With NuArca Labs
Major League Rugby has signed a partnership with NuArca Labs, an NFT platform that connects brands, artists and athletes with fans worldwide. The agreement will begin around the 2022 Championship Series when NuArca Labs becomes the Official NFT provider in the Digital Trading Card category for MLR. For the 2023 season, NuArca and MLR will launch an online digital trading card marketplace where fans can purchase “player packs” and other digital experiences that they can collect and trade. In addition, NuArca will work with all MLR teams to create digital collectibles and promotions designed to bring fans closer to the action.
Pittsburgh Penguins Pick Oak View to Manage Arena
The Pittsburgh Penguins, together with their ownership team at Fenway Sports Group, have selected OVG360, the full-service venue management division of Oak View Group, to manage, book and operate PPG Paints Arena. The previous management agreement with ASM Global is due to expire on June 30. OVG360 operates UBS Arena (home of the New York Islanders) and Climate Pledge Arena (home of the Seattle Kraken) and also manages the soon-to-open multipurpose arena at Arizona State University (where the Arizona Coyotes will play), the Centene Community Ice Center (practice facility for the St. Louis Blues), and in the Pittsburgh area, the UMPC Events Center at Robert Morris University. OVG360 will retain the venue’s existing management team and arena workers, including all union relationships.