J.R Smith Teams With Complexity Gaming to Host Call of Duty Tournament for HBCU Students

By Dominic Massimino

Former NBA player and current college student J.R. Smith is partnering with the Jerry Jones-owned Complexity Gaming to host a Call of Duty tournament for students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The Complexity Stars HBCU Rebirth Rumble to celebrate Black History Month will stream Feb. 28 on Twitch and give $10,000 in prizes.

Gameplay will be held on Call of Duty: Warzone’s Rebirth Island map. Students from HBCUs will compete in teams of three, each led by a Complexity Stars athlete or Call of Duty influencer. Other athletes participating in the event include NFL running back Leonard Fournette, MLB’s Edwin Rios and UFC fighters Sean O’Malley and Megan Anderson.

Complexity will also promote a charity drive for The HBCU Foundation during the tournament, which will be produced by esports operations company Boom.TV. Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, bought Complexity in 2017 and opened the GameStop Performance Center for competitive gaming on-campus at the Cowboys’ practice facility in 2019.

Smith played 16 NBA seasons and won two championships, most recently with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020. He enrolled last year at North Carolina A&T State University, an HBCU, where he’s pursuing a degree in liberal studies and is on the school’s Division-I golf team.

NBA All-Star Weekend Events to Showcase Google’s Real Tone Smartphone Camera Tech

By Dominic Massimino

Google will have several sponsorship activations during Cleveland’s NBA All-Star Weekend, beginning Feb. 18, to promote its new Real Tone camera feature built into its Google Pixel 6 smartphone. The phone’s camera uses computational photography technology to adjust its lighting to more accurately display varying skin colors, particularly people with darker skin tones

 An ad showcasing Google Pixel 6 and its camera ran during Super Bowl LVI. For NBA All-Star Weekend, Google is sponsoring the first HBCU Classic game between Howard University and Morgan State University. Google worked with photographer Shaniqwa Jarvis to produce team photos and headshots using Real Tone on the Google Pixel 6 — the official fan phone of the NBA. 

 Google will run ads throughout All-Star Weekend of behind-the-scenes footage from the photoshoot, including during the Clorox Rising Stars game and HBCU Classic. During the NBA All-Star Game, Google will run a 30-second ad that features HBCU basketball teams and promotes the Google Pixel 6.

 “Photography is not just a system of calibrating light, but a technology of subjective decisions. Light skin became the chemical baseline for film technology, fulfilling the needs of its target dominant market,” Harvard University associate professor Sarah Lewis wrote in her 2019 New York Times article on the history of racial bias in photography. 

MLB Players Strike Marketing Deal With IBM Watson-Backed Influential

By Andrew Cohen

Social media marketing company Influential has partnered with the MLB Players Association to facilitate branded content opportunities for MLB players. The deal was signed through MLB Players, Inc., the business arm of the MLBPA. 

 The company’s Social Intelligence platform uses AI from IBM Watson to match athletes with brands based on an analysis of audience demographics and social engagement. Brands such as Pepsi, McDonald’s, Ford and Venmo have used Influential to launch sponsored campaigns, as have leagues such as the NFL and NBA. 

 All 1,200 players in the MLBPA will now have access to Influential. The company has also launched Influential U, a platform to connect brands with NCAA student athletes for NIL deals. 

Micropayments App Buzzer to Stream Boxing from DAZN

By Joe Lemire

Buzzer, which connects fans to live short form sports content, reached its first partnership with a multi-sport streaming platform in DAZN. The deal will begin with live boxing content currently available in the U.S. to DAZN’s paid subscribers. 

The premise of Buzzer is to fill the void between longform, linear broadcasts and short form social highlights that are available after the fact. Buzzer partners with leagues and broadcasters to curate content according to a viewer’s personalized interests and then makes short snippets of live coverage on mobile devices via micropayments. 

Previous partners for Buzzer—which has received investment from star athletes such as Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Patrick Mahomes, Naomi Osaka and LaMelo Ball—include NBA League Pass, WNBA League Pass, PGA Tour, the NHL and FanDuel. Buzzer CEO Bo Han described boxing’s appeal in the shorter format given its round-by-round action and quick momentum shifts. DAZN has weekly boxing fight cards already scheduled through the end of March. 

Milwaukee Bucks Partner With Pivot Analysis to Expand Scouting Data on International Prospects

By Joe Lemire

The defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks have hired advanced basketball data provider Pivot Analysis to increase their breadth of statistical coverage in international leagues. 

Pivot Analysis draws from existing data sources without the need for additional cameras, sensors or other hardware. It uses artificial intelligence to help coaches optimize lineups, substitutions, and player combinations such as the impact of specific two-player pairings. Pivot ingests and analyzes data for the NBA, WNBA, all divisions of NCAA basketball, as well as European leagues. In addition to its coaching products, Pivot is available to basketball journalists and avid gamers. 

The Barcelona-based Pivot Analysis launched in 2019 with three co-founders: CEO Morgan Flom, a former U.S. Army captain with an intelligence community background and experience with video analysis company ERIC Sports; CCO Daniel Romero-Salas, who has worked in public relations/business development and earned an MBA from IESE Business School; and CTO Justin Shelton, director of software engineering at Black Cape, which also works in intelligence. 

Virtual Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous: Athletes and Celebs Pay $2.9M for Islands in Metaverse

By Andrew Cohen

Former world No. 1 tennis player Ana Ivanovic and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti are among several sports stars to buy virtual islands in The Sandbox, the blockchain-based virtual world computer game. Islands were also bought by Bayern Munich winger Kingsley Coman, Swiss tennis player Stan Wawrinka and Dan Holzmann, co-owner of the Swiss soccer club FC Basel.

Exclusible, an NFT marketplace that works with luxury brands, sold a total of 25 private islands in The Sandbox for a combined 910 ETH—which currently equals about $2.9 million. Exclusible limited sales of its last available virtual private islands to influencers with at least 1 million social media followers. Former Victoria’s Secret model Sara Sampaio was among those to buy the digital land, as well as crypto trading platform eToro, which ran an ad during Super Bowl LVI.

Coman, who also plays for the French national team, bought his metaverse island in collaboration with CHMPS PARISSE, a French streetwear brand that will promote its products in The Sandbox. The Sandbox is owned by Hong Kong-based Animoca Brands, which also made Olympic pin NFTs for the IOC. 

Warner Music Group, Adidas, Gucci, Atari and Snoop Dogg are among other brands and celebrities to have bought land in The Sandbox to launch NFTs and digital experiences in its virtual world. On Tuesday, JP Morgan launched a virtual lounge in Decentraland, which competes with The Sandbox for metaverse prowess as virtual worlds fueled by cryptocurrencies. 

“Whether it’s large tech players such as Microsoft planning to create realistic workspaces, or Ariana Grande holding a concert in Fortnite, the opportunities presented by interactive, digital worlds seem limitless,” reads a report from JP Morgan. “The metaverse will likely infiltrate every sector in some way in the coming years, with the market opportunity estimated at over $1 trillion in yearly revenues.”

JP Morgan’s report titled “Opportunities in the metaverse” says $54 billion per year is spent on virtual goods and that NFTs have a current market cap of $41 billion. The report also says that 60 billion messages per day are sent on Roblox, whose users have been able to buy NFL-branded digital jerseys and helmets to dress their in-game avatars and visit Nike’s virtual campus called Nikeland

The term “metaverse” was first used in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 dystopian science fiction novel Snow Crash, but the phrase has burst in popularity since Facebook rebranded to Meta last year to re-position itself as a “metaverse first” company. Rob Shaw, director of North America sports partnerships at Meta, will speak more on the company’s metaverse vision at SportTechie’s State Of The Industry conference from April 12-13 at One World Trade Center in New York. 

Crypto Exchange FTX to Sponsor Nerd Street Esports Championships

By Dominic Massimino

Esports venue operator Nerd Street has partnered with cryptocurrency giant FTX. The U.S. affiliate of FTX (FTX US) will become the presenting sponsor for the Nerd Street Championships this summer and of community events held at Nerd Street’s nine facilities across the US.

The Nerd Street Championships is a season-long tournament spanning multiple esports gaming titles and awards more than $600,000 in prizes to competitors. The partnership will give Nerd Street the ability to accept payments in cryptocurrency and offer cryptocurrency payouts to its players.

FTX’s vast sponsorships across sports include deals with the Miami Heat, UC Berkeley and the Washington Wizards, Capitals and Mystics. The company also launched a $2 billion fund to invest in blockchain technology last month. 

SMT Delivering NBC’s Broadcast Graphics for Winter Olympics

By Andrew Cohen

NBC Sports has collaborated with sports data and graphics producer SMT during its coverage of the Beijing Winter Olympics. SMT has provided NBC with score graphics for hockey, curling and figure skating events, as well as on-screen displays of metal counts by country and events throughout the Games. 

 SMT is serving as the results and timing interface provider of the Games, which is being covered across NBC, the Peacock streaming app, USA Network, CNBC, NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app. SMT has supported NBC’s Olympic graphics production since 2000. The companies also worked together to add puck and player tracking data graphic during NHL broadcasts on NBC.

 SMT’s media asset management system is also being used by NBC’s production crew throughout the Olympics to organize, search and schedule content internally. CBS recently worked with SMT to create animated graphics during its NFL wild card broadcast on Nickelodeon, while the University of the Pacific has partnered with SMT to launch a sports analytics program for students. 

AT&T To Showcase 5G Tech At NBA All-Star Game

By Dominic Massimino

AT&T, the official 5G innovation partner of the NBA, will leverage its connectivity technology for several fan experiences at the 2022 All-Star Game in Cleveland. Among the AT&T-branded activations are Playmaker, an augmented reality experience, as well as the Concert Lens and Legends Cam. 

Attendees can undergo a 3D body scan, allowing them to appear in one of five custom All-Star themed, augmented reality spaces developed by Playmaker, including the recreation of famous LeBron James dunks. Fans will also be able to watch the pregame concert featuring Jack Harlow and Cautious Clay using AT&T 5G Concert Lens, which gives fans access to every available camera angle.

The AT&T 5G Legends Cam will spotlight former dunk-contest winners and basketball legends throughout the NBA Slam Dunk Contest and All-Star Game. Over 100 cameras will be in use to create AT&T’s 5G Virtual View, which will give fans a 360-degree view of the stadium.

As the 5G partner of both the NBA and WNBA, AT&T has developed augmented reality experiences for the leagues in the past, including AT&T 5G Game View that allows fans to bring up stats from previous and live games through AR.

Analytic-Driven Sporting Kansas City to Deploy TRACAB’s Optical Tracking at Home Games

By Andrew Cohen

MLS club Sporting Kansas City has reached a three-year deal to install TRACAB’s optical tracking system at Children’s Mercy Park to capture positional data on players during home matches. New analytics will be shown during the team’s match broadcasts and the data will be used by the club’s coaching staff to optimize in-game strategy and player performance.  

TRACAB’s Gen-5 camera system captures more than 3.5 million data points per match such as player sprint speeds, distances run and time on the ball. TRACAB is owned by Chyron, whose Coach Paint video analysis software is already used by Sporting KC. Germany’s Bundesliga and Spain’s La Liga also use TRACAB.

“[TRACAB will show us] distances between the players, allocations around the field, spacing when you’re on attack or defense,” Sporting KC assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin told SportTechie. “We’re [also] using wearables from STATSports that will help monitor workload of our players in training. I think this is going to be the first year that we’re going to be able to have two sets of data coming in and the reliability of both will be very interesting as they relate to each other.”

Sporting KC’s matches this season will air locally on 38 The Spot, which replaces Bally Sports as the team’s regional partner. Matches will also stream for free on the team’s mobile app and website, where fans can see on-screen graphics of TRACAB’s ball and player movement data. Advanced wearables and computer vision camera-tracking systems are a far cry from Zavagnin’s MLS playing career as a midfielder for Kansas City from 2000 to 2008, when he says heart-rate monitors were the pinnacle of tech used by teams.

“I think you always want to caution between the advancement in sports science and the traditional methods of evaluating the game to make sure you’re not paralyzing yourself through analysis,” Zavagnin says. “That’s the fine balance as we progress with sports science and technology, to make sure we still understand it’s 11 players on each team with one ball trying to score in two goals.”

Golden State Warriors Relaunch Single-Game Premium Suite Marketplace

By Andrew Cohen

The Golden State Warriors have re-launched SuiteXchange, an online resale marketplace for Chase Center suite owners to sell single-event access to their suites for Warriors home games and concerts. SuiteXchange originally launched in October 2019 and now returns with upgrades through the team’s new partnership with digital experience platform Arc XP.

 Prospective buyers can now view virtual tours of available suite listings at Chase Center. Arc XP’s integrated commerce tools also now let sellers list a set price for their suite, while interested buyers can make offers for the suite owner to accept or send a counteroffer. SuiteXchange will host resale listings for all premium hospitality spaces at Chase Center, including 16-person club suites, courtside lounges and four-person theatre boxes.

 A press release from the Warriors says that SuiteXchange is capable of being used as a resale marketplace by other sports teams and venues. “We are able to offer current suite holders a broader network of buyers interested in single game hospitality opportunities […] and providing more options even for sold out events,” Warriors president and COO Brandon Schneider said in a statement.