THIS WEEK'S PICK | DYNAMIC DUOS
Recent sports headlines have been full of announcements: a winning bid for the 2026 Olympic Games, a possible Canadian home for an MLB franchise, and a historic TOP partnership agreement for the International Olympic Committee. The connecting theme? All are joint ventures.
Let's start with MLB. Permission has been granted from the league for the Tampa Bay Rays to begin exploring the feasibility of splitting home games between the Tampa Region and Montreal, with both cities getting new stadiums. Why? According to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred: "to preserve baseball in Tampa [and] improve the economics of the club overall." It makes sense; the Tampa Bay Rays have the second-lowest attendance record in the league and the team is locked into a lease with Tropicana Field until 2027.
Big picture, Manfred's comment explains the growing trend of joint ventures in sports: the ability to provide local fans with the experience of professional sports in a way that is more economically attractive for the league and/or teams involved. Additionally, the cost of hosting major international events and growing global consciousness around sustainability continues to rise, making cost-sharing opportunities more attractive, along with re-using or upgrading existing infrastructure from past events instead of building new facilities.
This was certainly the case with the candidate cities for the Olympic Winter Games 2026. Both final bids were joint-location propositions: Stockholm-Åre (Sweden) and Milan-Cortina (Italy). The Italian bid triumphed with a strong focus on sustainability; a stunning 13 out of 14 Games facilities will be existing or temporary venues. Similarly, the successful North American bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup also featured existing infrastructure, and the logistical confidence presented by the United States, Canada, and Mexico joint bid put them ahead of Morocco, the other contender.
Hosting international events is different than sponsoring them, but with the historic TOP agreement that has Coca-Cola and Chinese dairy giant Mengniu sharing a category (generating $3 billion USD through 2032), a trend is in motion. Will partnerships and sharing trickle down from the Olympic level and become more commonplace across professional leagues? It may not happen in the immediate future, but if it proves to be a stronger economic model and continues to provide (or even enhance) value for fans, it is definitely a possibility.
CLIENTS IN THE NEWS
Kia Nurse is up for a spot in the WNBA All-Star game on July 27. You can vote here every day to get Kia to Las Vegas! In other big news, it was announced that TSN, Sportsnet, and NBA TV Canada will broadcast 53 live WNBA games this season, including a number of New York Liberty games. The full broadcast schedule can be found here.
Kate Beirness has been leading TSN's coverage of the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019. The all-female panel has been lauded for their incredible work and The Globe and Mail has praised Kate's "lively, funny, acerbic and concise" hosting and knowledgeable handling of the panel.
GOING GLOBAL | EXHIBITION EXTRAVAGANZA
Generating international interest in North American sports has become the new trend with the latest installment of international exhibition games taking place last weekend. A historic rivalry took center stage at Olympic Stadium where almost 120,000 fans watched the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox go head-to-head in the two-game MLB London Series. This year, in addition to the London Series, MLB also presented series in Japan and Mexico.
It is becoming commonplace for American pro leagues to play international exhibition games in countries like Canada, Africa, Australia, and China. Why? Fostering a global fan base has become increasingly important to grow a league's market. It is also more cost-effective to host a short exhibition series instead of setting up an entire league. Additionally, there are fans around the world who will never step foot in their team's home stadium, yet they often as avid as the hometown crowd. Bringing a game to an international audience serves to bolster current fans and create new ones. The leagues know this and they are smart pursue those connections. After all, the magic of sports is often as much about the in-stadium experience with a community of fans as it is about the actual game on the field.