Welcome to Sportico’s Transactions wire, a weekly rundown of personnel, partnerships and products across the sports business industry.
Legends Appoints Chief Communications Officer
Legends appointed Stacey Escudero to the position of chief communications officer. In her role, Escudero will be responsible for leading global communications for the company. Escudero joined Legends as SVP, communications in January 2022 and has since played an integral role in developing, scaling, and evolving the company’s global communications strategy and driving employee communications to extend the company’s mission. In her new role, Escudero will lead corporate business and brand communications and oversee public relations strategies across the company’s service divisions, which include planning, sales, partnerships, hospitality, merchandise, and technology solutions. In addition, she will oversee Legends’ digital media platforms and serve as a leader for the company’s global internal employee communications and events.
NBC Sports Names New Chief Financial Officer
NBC Sports announced that Samita Mannapperuma has been named chief financial officer. She has served as senior vice president, business development, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming since October 2020. Mannapperuma has financial oversight of NBC Sports, which includes NBC Olympics, Golf Channel, NBC Sports Digital, NBC Sports Next and NBC Sports Audio. Mannapperuma will also continue to oversee business development for NBC Sports. She has worked on the acquisitions of premium rights for NBC Sports, including the August 2022 agreement for the Big Ten Conference, as well as extensions with the Premier League and PGA TOUR and the reacquisition of the USGA. She joined NBC Sports in 2012 as director, business development.
Sportsgrid Announces Strategic Advisor
SportsGrid, Inc. has brought on Brian Angiolet as a strategic advisor, guiding a team developing the next generation entertainment platform for the sports wagering audience. Angiolet’s team will focus on executing a global strategy and launching new verticals geared towards the 21-45 demographic. Angiolet served in several leadership roles at Verizon Communications, including chief content officer, head of advertising, chief product officer and chief business officer. Most recently, he was chief media officer at DraftKings.
Former Premier League Commercial Director Joins Pixellot
Pixellot, a provider of AI-powered sports production and analytics solutions, has appointed Brian Phillpotts as new VP of business development for sport governing bodies. Phillpotts has spent four years with Pixellot as a consultant developing global partnerships with federations, data companies and broadcasters. He will be responsible for growing new business models and opportunities with media companies, sport’s governing bodies and brands worldwide. Since 2005 Brian has consulted rights holders, media companies, sports tech businesses, brands and sports clubs globally. He previously served as the commercial director at the Premier League where he was responsible for sponsorship, licensing, broadcasting, digital media, marketing and international development.
Arena Football League Hires New COO
The Arena Football League has appointed Tracey Leinen as the league’s chief operating officer, in which she will oversee the development and implementation of the AFL’s strategic business and growth operations. Leinen spent 10 years serving as a team logistics consultant for the NFL. In that role, she managed operations and travel logistics between the NFL and Super Bowl-bound teams, supported NFL Draft logistics in Philadelphia and helped execute NFL alumni relations during Super Bowl LVII and more. She also founded TEAM Management, a sports and entertainment marketing company that supports a wide array of athletes, celebrities and brands in planning their goals, initiatives and strategic objectives.
Next League Hires Sports Tech Veteran for Executive Role
Next League has hired Juan De Jesus, a seasoned sports technology veteran, as chief strategy officer. De Jesus was most recently at Dapper Labs and previously held roles at Meta and MLB. In his new role, he will help the company accelerate its vision to become one of the most important digital evolution partners in sports.
U.S. Soccer, Sportfive Join for International Push
The U.S. Soccer Federation and leading global sports marketing agency Sportfive have reached a multiyear partnership to help U.S. Soccer grow its media presence around the world. As part of the partnership, Sportfive will look to secure international media distribution deals across television and digital platforms for U.S. Soccer’s teams and competitions everywhere outside of the United States, including the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams. The partnership also includes distribution for the SheBelieves Cup, a four-team women’s international tournament.
U.S. Soccer Reaches Spanish Language Audio Rights Agreement
U.S. Soccer and Fútbol de Primera (FDP) announced a multi-year partnership that will make FDP the exclusive Spanish-language audio rights partner of the Federation, inclusive of high-profile matches and off-the-field events like the SheBelieves Summit and the National Soccer Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. The partnership framework includes coverage rights for USWNT and USMNT friendly matches, Concacaf Nations League group stage matches, the SheBelieves Cup, and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (round of 32 through the tournament final) in the United States and its territories and possessions, including Puerto Rico. FDP has been at the forefront of Spanish-language soccer coverage for over 33 years and has become the recognized brand for Hispanic audiences in the United States. It owns the exclusive Spanish language audio rights to the FIFA World Cup, Gold Cup 2023, among other properties.
Kansas City Current Links Up With OLIPOP
The Kansas City Current has added soda brand OLIPOP as an official partner for the 2023 season. The Kansas City Current Training Complex will stock OLIPOP drinks and host samplings for the team to try flavors throughout the season. OLIPOP will the use of marks, in-game signage, hospitality, social posts and more. OLIPOP was created by beverage entrepreneurs Ben Goodwin and David Lester, who set out to create a soda with digestive health benefits.
Coastal Carolina and Aspire Extend Deal
Coastal Carolina University and The Aspire Group have agreed to a multi-year extension of their partnership. Aspire first established a Fan Relationship Management Center with Coastal Carolina in 2017. Since then, Aspire and Coastal Carolina have produced numerous sell-outs and set annual revenue records in both fiscal year 2022 and fiscal year 2023. In addition to providing ticket sales and service, Aspire has also supported Coastal Carolina with fan research that led to premium seating and experience offerings to improve season ticket holder retention. Aspire analysis also discovered opportunities for increased Chanticleer Athletic Foundation awareness and a strengthened student to alumni donor pipeline.
Team Global Express Becomes FIFA Women’s World Cup Official Supporter
Australian logistics provider Team Global Express has signed on as the Official Logistics Services Provider in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand for the 32-team Women’s World Cup, which kicks off on July 20. FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 will look to utilize the logistics capabilities and transport solutions of Team Global Express. Team Global Express’ efforts towards sustainability were essential in being selected.
LPGA and Legends Announce Broad Partnership
The LPGA and Legends Golf, a division of Legends that leverages the company’s services for partners in the golf industry, have connected to drive fan engagement and growth. As part of the partnership, Legends’ global merchandise team will oversee e-commerce, licensing and select on-site event retail for the LPGA. Further, Legends will work together with the LPGA to develop and produce product lines and expand merchandise offerings for fans worldwide on the official LPGA e-commerce shop. Event retail operations will include the Drive On Championship, Cognizant Founders Cup, CME Group Tour Championship, Solheim Cup and Hanwha LifePlus International Crown. Legends’ global technology solutions team will also provide a comprehensive, custom fan study and event sponsorship valuation and solutions to support further fan and revenue growth.
SailGP, IMG Ink Multi-Year Partnership Extension
Global racing league SailGP announced a multi-year renewal agreement with IMG, a leader in sports, events and media, to continue as the racing league’s global agency of record and drive the future growth of the property. IMG will focus on expanding SailGP’s global media rights distribution, working alongside SailGP’s in-house team, and developing new commercial partnerships for the league, its participating teams and events, as well as providing strategic support and assistance to SailGP’s commercial team. The company will continue to shape SailGP’s long-term growth ambitions utilizing the full range of services across the IMG network, as well as supporting SailGP’s commitment to championing a world powered by nature through transformational purpose-led partnerships. SailGP first partnered with IMG, which is part of Endeavor—a strategic investor in SailGP—in 2020 ahead of its second season.
U.S. Soccer Extends Longtime Relationship With AT&T
The U.S. Soccer Federation announced a multi-year extension with AT&T that will continue to innovate how fans connect to soccer in the United States as the U.S. Women’s and Men’s National Teams participate in some of the game’s biggest global events over the next few years. The partnership, which began in 2013, will focus on a fan-centric approach to creating immersive experiences, telling authentic stories, and making an impact. Additionally, as part of a shared commitment to elevate voices and champion diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, AT&T will continue to support U.S. Soccer’s SheBelieves platform and the annual SheBelieves Summit presented by Deloitte.
GOALS Secures $20 Million in Series A Financing
Stockholm-based GOALS has raised $20M in Series A financing, led by Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six along with Northzone, Moonfire and Cassius. Founded in 2021 by Andreas Thorstensson, former Counter Strike World Champion and founder of leading esports organization SK Gaming, this investment brings total funding to $39 million, and will help fast-track production of GOALS, the studio’s first game that aims to bring a revolution to the football genre. In addition to standard 11v11 matches for two players (versus or co-op) and casual play, the team is also adding a 5v5 mode, where all players are user-controlled, increasing the social and competitive aspect of football games. GOALS is free to play, with cross-play across consoles and PC, and optimizations that will ensure the game runs on older consoles and more accessible PC hardware. This round brought new angel investors onboard, including Peter Sellis, SVP of Product, Discord; Wayne Mackey, Founder and CEO of Statespace / Aimlabs; Riqui Puig, LA Galaxy midfielder; and Clement Langlet, centerback for Tottenham Hotspur.
Derrick Rose to Launch Chess Festival
Basketball star and 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose is launching the inaugural Chesstival chess tournament and festival at Resorts World Las Vegas. The weekend will feature celebrities, professional athletes, musicians and amateur chess players competing in a high-stakes chess tournament. Rose was introduced to chess in seventh grade through the chess club at school, but did not start playing until his third year in the NBA while recovering from injuries. The Chesstival tournament will also act as a platform to benefit the expansion of chess education into underprivileged schools and prisons as a form of rehabilitation. The tournament will coincide with July’s NBA Summer League.