Tonight in Unpacks: Twitter is leaning into SoFi Stadium’s innovations for a unique activation ahead of the Big Game.

  • WNBA raises $75 million in capital funding round
  • MoneyLion leaves Penske, signs with 23XI Racing
  • Throwback Thursday: The origins of the Winter Olympics
  • Legends launches new business unit
  • BMW teases Super Bowl LVI spot with Schwarzenegger
  • Top MLS team exec takes aim at unpaid internships, low salaries

Miss today’s Morning Buzzcast? SBJ’s Abe Madkour catches you up on Blackhawks Owner Rocky Wirtz’ heated exchange with Chicago media.

SoFi Stadium’s position beneath the LAX flightpath is contributing to an unusual activation by Twitter in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, in which tweets predicting the game’s outcome will be displayed on the stadium’s LED embedded roof, reports SBJ’s Bret McCormick. Because of the stadium’s location, 80,000-100,000 people could fly over the venue on an average gameday, at least as many, if not more, than would be inside the stadium.

“It’s a completely programmable system,” HKS design/technical project architect Niel Prunier said of the LED roof. “They could show replays of action on the field, they could show reruns of ‘Cheers‘ if they wanted.”

Twitter Senior Partner Manager David Herman said the company’s initial question was where it could insert Twitter users into the Super Bowl experience and SoFi Stadium’s architecture. The roof idea started as a joke but Herman said they quickly realized it was where they needed to be. “Every year we see new and fun real estate,” he said. “We’ve always thought that LED and screens are the future, but we’ve never seen it in this capacity.” 

The stadium’s breathable, light emitting ETFE (similar to teflon) roof is a stretched skin held in place by steel cables. The LED system is situated above the roof and consists of nearly 27,000 hexagonal “pucks,” each containing four LED nodes. The roof’s LED display, operated from the stadium’s control room, was designed and manufactured by Saco, the Canadian company that recently produced the LED lighting system on the exterior of TQL Stadium in Cincinnati.

Saco Senior VP/Business Development Yanick Fournier said the most important factors for an exterior LED system are it needs to be somewhat hidden, but also easy to install and maintain. The LED pucks can be replaced in a matter of seconds. “It’s all about staying close to the original design of an architect. You’re not installing a bulky structure on a facade,” said Fournier. “We’re integrating it, so you’re not seeing it. But then at nighttime, the magic starts.”

Tweets predicting the Super Bowl’s outcome will be displayed on the stadium’s LED embedded roof

The WNBA has raised $75 million in a ground-breaking capital investment round intended to improve the league’s marketing efforts and in turn elevate its status globally, reports SBJ’s David Rumsey.

Investors, which will take an equity stake in the WNBA (but not in any individual teams), include Nike, Laurene Powell Jobs, Condoleezza Rice and prominent sports figures like NBA team owners Micky Arison and son Nick (Heat), Ted Leonsis (Wizards), Joe and Clara Tsai (Nets), Herb Simon and son Steve (Pacers), as well as Dell Technologies Founder & CEO Michael Dell and wife Susan (Spurs investors) and Dodgers Chair Mark Walter. The league’s ownership structure prior to closing was 50% ownership by the 30 NBA teams and 50% by the 12 WNBA teams. No further details were disclosed the specific stakes new investors are acquiring. Allen & Company LLC served as the WNBA’s financial advisor.

“We’re going to take a huge step forward on and get things done quicker,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told SBJ. “I’m excited now to get this capital and deploy it, and this is the right time to jump start some of the things we wanted to do.” At the top of that list is being visible. “I would say first and always marketing, marketing, marketing,” Engelbert quipped. But the options are limitless. “So many things that that we can invest in, but we never really had the capital and now we do,” she added, referencing globalizing the game, transforming digitally and better understanding fan behavior.

Read more in SBJ‘s daily edition.

Fintech app MoneyLion has left Team Penske for a new deal with Michael Jordan’s 23XI Racing team, with which it becomes official bank and cryptocurrency platform, reports SBJ’s Adam Stern.

Terms were not disclosed, but MoneyLion will be a primary sponsor on both the No. 23 and No. 45 Toyotas run by the NASCAR Cup Series team for a couple races this season. However, the brand’s activation focus is largely around digital content, including getting drivers Bubba Wallace and Kurt Busch involved with its Young Lions program that aims to motivate people to achieve financial goals. The first primary paint schemes for MoneyLion will be in March with Busch at Phoenix Raceway and in May with Wallace at Darlington Raceway.

MoneyLion CMO Bill Davaris told SBJ that among the possible crypto activations are paying out 23XI drivers in the currency, doing giveaway for fans and NFT projects. The MoneyLion banking app lets its users round up their purchases to the nearest dollar, with the difference being invested into either Bitcoin or Ethereum. MoneyLion first entered NASCAR as a sponsor in 2018 with Penske, and Davaris told SBJ that Penske Corp. “added tremendous value to our business,” but that with everything 23XI is doing in the DEI space, it “lined up well with us and our mission of access.”

Davaris added that MoneyLion is hoping to work with other 23XI partners like Jordan Brand, DoorDash and McDonald’s, and that it also is hoping to work with Jordan on activation.

Long before the Winter Olympics morphed into the multibillion-dollar enterprise that is enjoyed across the world today, the inaugural event, hosted in the small French town of Chamonix in 1924, was known at the time as the “International Winter Sports Week.” A year later, the IOC retroactively designated it the first Olympic Winter Games.

In this week’s Closing Shot, SBJ’s Erik Bacharach writes that’s only one of several major ways the Winter Olympics have changed over time. The first Winter Olympics were inspired by the Nordic Games, a Scandinavian winter sports festival that was held every few years in Sweden beginning in 1901. The Winter Games were also an extension of the Summer Olympics, which began in 1896 and added events such as figure skating in 1908 and ice hockey in 1920.

The biggest difference between then and now is the sheer size of the Winter Games, according to Bill Mallon, an Olympic historian who has written 27 books on the Olympics and is a consultant for the IOC and U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Read the full piece from Bacharach here.

Legends this morning announced the launch of Legends Growth Enterprises, a new business unit focused on utilizing the company’s 360-degree service solution to support sports and entertainment properties, attractions, events, and platforms positioned for or pursuing accelerated growth, reports SBJ’s Bret McCormick.

As part of the new division launch, Legends has acquired Maestroe Sports & Entertainment, an agency focused on emerging sports and entertainment property development, sponsorship, global growth strategies and revenue creation. Maestroe Sports & Entertainment Founder Gabby Roe will join Legends as President of Legends Growth Enterprises.

Legends Growth Enterprises will be backed by the company’s other divisions — Global Planning, Global Sales, Global Partnerships, Hospitality, Global Merchandise, and Global Technology Solutions — and will provide broadcast and media rights partnership support, too. The acquisition of Maestroe Sports & Entertainment follows Legends’ acquisition earlier this week of 4Front, an effort to bolster the company’s Global Technology Solutions division.

Ishwara Glassman Chrein has been the president of business operations at the Chicago Fire for eight months, and she’s all-in on developing a new culture at the MLS club. It starts with investing in the club’s future. 

Chrein, a member of SBJ’s Forty Under 40 class of 2020, writes in an op-ed for SBJ this week, “In the time I have been running the day-to-day duties of the front office, one thing was clear on this side of the sports world — interns are unpaid, entry-level salaries are unfair and there is a major lack of diversity. … We need to get rid of the mindset that it is OK for teams that are making millions and billions, or owned by people worth millions and billions, to misuse and mistreat these students. Let’s invest in our future and change the landscape of diversity in sports.”

Click here to read the full contribution.

  • BMW today released a teaser of its Super Bowl spot, “Something Electric is Brewing,” featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Zeus ordering at a coffee shop. The automaker spent $11 million advertising during sports telecasts over the past year, according to an analysis of data by SBJ’s David Broughton. That represented 38% of the brand’s overall TV ad spend. Approximately 27% of the sports spend appeared during NFL programming, 23% during college football and the remaining was scattered throughout a wide variety of sportscasts. Goodby Silverstein & Partners created the ad. BMW is a Ravens and Texans sponsor, according to SBJ Atlas, and its most recent Super Bowl appearance came in 2015, when it debuted the electric BMW i3.
  • SBJ‘s daily edition has you covered on every angle of Brian Flores‘ lawsuit against the NFL and the pending league investigation, including a roundup of columnists calling for Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to sell the team and both the Broncos and Browns pushing back against allegations. Look for more from our Ben Fischer in tonight’s SBJ Football newsletter.
  • Meal kit delivery company HelloFresh has secured its first NHL team sponsorship deals, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. The company today announced agreements with the Predators, Islanders and Kings, all of which include opportunities for teams’ fans to win branded gear via sweepstakes and in-venue contests. Through the deals, teams will also provide exclusive deals on HelloFresh meal kits. 
  • ICYMI: Activision Blizzard confirmed that Overwatch League is already taking bids by third party operators to produce and facilitate league operations, news first reported by SBJ’s Kevin Hitt last week. Both the Call of Duty League and the Overwatch League will have its productions and operations assisted by third parties. Read more in the latest SBJ Esports newsletter.
  • The Professional Fighters League today named supplement brand Redcon1 as a new partner, reports SBJ’s Adam Stern. The brand becomes the official performance, active nutrition and supplement partner of the MMA property, and it will advertise during all regular-season events on ESPN and Challenger Series events on FuboTV
  • Eagles RB Boston Scott has signed a one-year deal to become a member of the Rocket League esports team Dignitas, per SBJ’s Liz Mullen. Scott’s NFL agent, Dynamic Sports Group CEO Cameron Weiss, negotiated the deal.