MLB in Talks With Legal Counsel Regarding FTX Partnership as Cryptocurrency Firm’s Bankruptcy Puts Sports Deals in Doubt
MLB is speaking with its legal counsel to decide how best to proceed regarding its partnership with the now bankrupt cryptocurrency firm FTX, sources tell SportTechie. Sources close to the league indicated that MLB is concerned and closely monitoring the situation.
The history of Major League Baseball dates back to the 1800s, but FTX became the first ever brand to have its logo appear on the uniform patches of umpires beginning at the 2021 All-Star Game in Denver and continuing through the 2022 season. Shortly after MLB signed its reported five-year deal with FTX in June 2021, the league hosted its MLB Moon Blasts Pick ‘Em contest presented by FTX that offered $50,000 worth of Bitcoin to be deposited into the winner’s FTX account. MLB held a similar prediction contest with FTX that promoted a $100,000 grand crypto prize this past season.
As recently as Nov. 5, MLB’s twitter account shared a World Series home run highlight video that was presented by FTX. The Miami Heat have terminated its stadium naming rights deal with FTX while both the Golden State Warriors and Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team have suspended their promotions of the crypto brand. Should MLB eventually decide to end its relationship with FTX, the last time the brand’s logo will have appeared on an MLB field was during Game 6 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Ironically, the Astros’ ballpark was previously named Enron Field from 2000 to 2002 before the energy company declared bankruptcy amid its notorious accounting fraud and corruption scandal. “Enron was once the Derek Jeter of American corporations — young, dynamic, full of promise,” Edward Wong of The New York Times wrote in 2002 after the Astros prematurely ended its 30-year, $100 million deal with Enron.
That scandal was at the tail end of Web1 and the beginnings of Web2 in the early 2000s. The demise of FTX comes after the collapses earlier this year from fellow crypto brands Voyager and Terra, which spent this past MLB season promoting its worthless cryptocurrency as part of the Terra Club at Nationals Park in Washington DC.
The sports industry’s hopeful embrace of Web3 now must grapple with FTX’s footprint that spans several of the business’s favorite buzzwords. An Instagram post from FTX in June highlighted The Sandbox, Decentraland, and Axie Infinity as the “3 most popular crypto-powered metaverses.” FTX has also made NFT collections for partnered teams such as the Heat, Warriors, Washington Wizards, and Washington Capitals.
Tennis Australia Launches New Innovation Program for Tech Startups to Test Solutions at Australian Open
Tennis Australia is launching a new innovation program that invites startups to pilot their solutions at the Australian Open or other TA events.
The new incubator, AO Startups, is an evolution of Tennis Australia’s founding of its Wildcard Ventures fund — which led the funding for SwingVision, an Apple-promoted analysis app — and its multi-year partnership with Techstars to create an accelerator. The priority areas for the first cohort of AO Startups are athlete performance, injury prevention, esports and gaming, climate action and Padel tennis.
The deadline to apply is Dec. 14, although some entries will be considered up until Dec. 31.
Selected startups will receive access to Tennis Australia at the professional and community levels of the sport. They will benefit via network access, product development assistance and proof of concepts.
“Our partnership with Techstars reinforced just how important the entrepreneurs and early-stage tech community can be in shaping the trajectory of innovation. AO StartUps is a necessary and natural extension of our desire to do things differently and quickly … with the help of others.” Machar Reid, Tennis Australia’s head of innovation and Wildcard Ventures general partner, said in a statement. “Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, blockchain technology, sensors and wearables are all playing increasingly critical roles in the way we live our lives. This is an opportunity to apply those and other technological advancements to gains for fans, players, coaches and administrators at the Australian Open and throughout international tennis.”
Foxxum Adds DAZN’s On-Demand Streaming Lineup to Its Connected TV Platform in Germany, Italy and Spain
Foxxum has added DAZN’s on-demand streaming lineup to its connected TV platform in Germany, Italy and Spain, taking advantage of DAZN’s soccer coverage throughout Europe.
The DAZN app has been in demand by Foxxum Smart TV clients, and existing subscribers will have access to DAZN’s streams following the initial launch on Vestel devices. DAZN’s content includes live and on-demand game streams from Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League, among others.
The service can be purchased annually or monthly and also gives subscribers access to sports in the United States such as the NFL, NBA, NCAA football and basketball, UFC, the EHF Champions League for handball and MotoGP. Streams also consists of boxing, winter sports, tennis, darts and cycling.
Earlier this year, DAZN also signed a deal with online gaming software Pragmatic Play to incorporate sports wagering into its streaming service. DAZN Bet allows in-play betting during streams and is offered in over 200 countries and territories.
The streaming service also recently launched a global content production arm, DAZN Studios, to increase its volume of original content such as documentaries, series and films. A film on Cameroon’s 1990 World Cup team and an inside look at soccer icons Diego Maradona and Ronaldo were also in development. The arrival of DAZN Studios came after the company created an innovation hub last November.
Fitness App Trainerize, National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Partner to Build Specialized Programs for Coaches, Personal Trainers
Fitness app Trainerize will incorporate insights from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) into its educational platform, helping participating trainers and coaches gain more expertise on nutrition, mental wellness and physical anatomy.
Powered by ABC Fitness Solutions, the Trainerize mobile app is deployed by an estimated 400,000-plus personal trainers, nutritionists and wellness coaches most often as a way to connect with gym owners and clientele. The collaboration with the NASM is expected to help the gyms and trainers generate more business virtually.
NASM’s contribution to the app could be substantial, considering it has over 1.4 million certified trainers who specialize in physique and bodybuilding and virtual coaching. As part of the collaboration, Trainerize mobile app subscribers will have discounted access to NASM’s nutrition coach program, virtual coaching specialization program and other applications.
TeamSnap Acquires Community Sports Sponsorship Platform LeagueSide to Combine Management and Sponsorship Functionalities Into One Platform
Amateur sports management software company TeamSnap has acquired LeagueSide, a community sports sponsorship platform whose reach includes major brands such as Chipotle, Uber and Verizon.
TeamSnap reaches more than 25 million coaches, administrators, players and parents across 19,000 sports organizations and will now add 11 million households and 2 million youth athletes through LeagueSide. The acquisition consolidates the management and sponsorship functionality into one place for organizers while helping brands have more direct contact with their end consumers. Among the other stated use cases is the potential of reducing participation costs for families of youth athletes via the new sponsorship opportunities.
Private equity firm Waud Capital Partners bought a majority stake in TeamSnap in April 2021.
“We have listened to brands and partners looking for ways to connect in-person with youth sports communities, as well as youth sports organizations interested in sponsorship opportunities — and this is our answer,” Peter Frintzilas, TeamSnap CEO and a Waud Capital executive, said in a statement. “Like LeagueSide, TeamSnap at its core is a company focused on improving the lives of youth athletes and their families, while making sports accessible to all. We are excited to welcome these forward-thinking innovators to our team.”
FIFA to Introduce 11 New Advanced Metrics for Broadcast, Digital Audiences During FIFA World Cup Qatar
FIFA’s high-performance team, led by legendary former Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, has developed 11 new advanced metrics that will be made available to broadcast and digital audiences during the World Cup in Qatar.
The new metrics, based largely on player and ball tracking data, will be used to inform fans during the World Cup as well as be used by FIFA for internal uses. They are:
- Possession control
- Ball recovery time
- Line breaks
- Defensive line height and team length
- Final-third entries
- Forced turnovers
- Pressure on the ball
- Expected goals
- Team shape
- Receptions behind midfield
- Defensive lines and phases of play
Wenger is FIFA’s chief of global football development, and the high-performance team includes analysts, data scientists and engineers.
The federation said it will conduct developmental analysis to track longitudinal changes in how the sport is played as well as have more objective measures about the physical and tactical demands of the game at the highest level, with an eye toward understanding player development from lower levels. Chyron’s TRACAB provided the optical tracking cameras and algorithms powering electronic performance and tracking systems (EPTS) in the 2018 World Cup.
Venture Capital Firm KB Partners Closes Early-Stage Tech Fund With $127 Million in Total Startup Investments
Venture Capital firm KB Partners has closed one of sports’ most prodigious early-stage tech funds with an investment total of $127 million that so far spans 10 startups such as the 3-on-3 hockey league 3ICE, betting-centric nVenue and gravity sportswear Omorpho.
The highly-anticipated Myriad Opportunity Fund II — which follows founder Keith Bank’s initial $41 million, 16-startup fund in 2018 — substantially exceeds its initial investment goal of $100 million. As part of the fund, other companies such as metaverse-focused Stadium Live, smart basketball SIQ, blockchain ticketing firm Tixologi, outdoor enthusiast portal Kaya and basketball-focused Shot Quality, media platform Goss and gaming firm GridRival all earned financial boosts, with likely 15-to-20 more investments arriving over time.
Members of KB Partner’s advisory board include John Abbamondi, past CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclay’s Center; Chip Brewer, CEO of Callaway Golf; Joe Vrankin, CEO of Puttshack; Elton Brand, long time NBA star and Philadelphia 76ers GM; Steve Byrd, former Head of Global Partnerships at Sportradar, among others.
Women in Sports Tech Opens Applications for 2023 WiST Fellowship Program, a Summer Internship for Women and Nonbinary Students
Women in Sports Tech, a non-profit seeking to diversify the industry, has opened applications for its 2023 WiST Fellowship Program, a summer internship for women and nonbinary students. The application deadline is January 16, 2023.
WiST fellows work at relevant companies, teams or leagues for six to eight weeks while receiving a $5,000 grant and some reimbursable travel expenses. The fellowship program began in 2018 and included 27 recipients in 2022, working at such places as Major League Baseball, Stats Perform, Titleist, GameChanger, Catapult Sports, Stats Perform and Oura.
Opportunities for the 2023 summer program are still being finalized but include Stats Perform, Comcast NBCUniversal and the USOPC. The WiST fellowship is open to US citizens or international students enrolled in a US university.
SaaS Platform SponsorUnited Raises $35 Million Series A Funding Round Led by Spectrum Equity
Partnership intelligence platform SponsorUnited has raised a $35 million Series A funding round led by Spectrum Equity, alongside other investors such as Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry and San Diego Padres co-owner Ron Fowler.
SponsorUnited tracks as many as 1.1 million sponsorships across 250,000 brands and types of IP, with a longtime emphasis in sports. Utilizing machine learning and a global scouting network, the SaaS platform allows all but five major professional teams in the U.S. to monitor marketing partnerships throughout every major sports league.
The company’s founder Bob Lynch formerly oversaw partnerships for BSE Global, the parent firm of the Brooklyn Nets and Miami Dolphins, and is a board member along with SponsorUnited’s Alain Benzaken. In its most recent research, SponsorUnited’s data shows sponsorships in women’s sports are increasing at faster rate than men’s sports.
Liga MX Selects Facial Recognition Software Incode Technologies to Implement Fan ID Program League-Wide Across Stadiums in Mexico
Liga MX selected Incode Technologies, makers of the facial recognition software, to implement a league-wide Fan ID program with installations for 35 clubs in more than 30 stadiums, covering more than 400 matches annually. Incode is also a new sponsor of the Mexican national team for its appearance in the FIFA World Cup.
Following a violent brawl in the stands during a March 2022 match between Atlas FC and Querétaro, Liga MX required facial recognition be implemented for the 2022-23 season as part of its Fan ID program. Incode partnered with two Mexican clubs, Atlas and Santos Laguna, back in April. Now, the same technology is being introduced throughout the country’s top tier of professional soccer.
Incode’s fully automated solution promises encryption of fan data while maintaining stadium security. Incode tethers facial biometrics to a ticket and, if partners choose to, it can be attached to a credit card for concessions purchases, including for age-restricted items such as alcohol.
Concacaf Launches TikTok in Partnership With Wave Sports + Entertainment, Account Will Support Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico and U.S. Teams
Concacaf, soccer’s governing body for North and Central America, is launching on TikTok in partnership with Wave Sports + Entertainment in support of the confederation’s four teams competing in the FIFA World Cup: Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico and United States.
Wave Sports + Entertainment will produce original content and manage the TikTok account on behalf of Concacaf. Wave’s flagship soccer brand, FTBL, has roughly 10 million followers across all its social accounts. In addition to introducing personalities and perspectives for the four World Cup participant nations, content will also include angles relevant to all 41 member nations.
In all, Wave touts a reach of 117 million followers across its brands and partnerships, which include collaborations with 115 sports leagues. Its most high-profile content is its football-centric podcast, “New Heights with Jason & Travis Kelce.”
“Every day we are working to identify opportunities to authentically connect with football aficionados across our region and the world,” Heidi Pellerano, Concacaf’s chief commercial officer, said in a statement. “New generations are inheriting a love for football, and we are committed to offering unique, interactive, and engaging content to foster that interest and passion for years to come. I am biased but I also think our fans will add some extra flavor to TikTok challenges and will love engaging with our content.”