This is part of our "Last Week Today" series that includes a weekly roundup of the past week's most exciting and industry-altering news. Check back on our blog every week for updates! These stories cover sponsorship news for March 29 – April 4, 2021.
Baseball Banking On Cashless
As sports and entertainment businesses continue to refine their guest experience to fit the post-pandemic world, Major League Baseball is no different. Through various options such as payment apps, ‘reverse ATMs’, and even biometric ID systems, teams throughout MLB are testing new payment options for everything from tickets to hot dogs. Digital innovations to improve fan experience began before the pandemic, but the past year has accelerated these projects exponentially across all major sports. It is doubtful this will change any time soon as fan safety continues to be a top priority at live sporting events.
New Year, New Gear for UFC
UFC 261 will look a little different as Venum officially replaces Reebok as the exclusive apparel partner for the championships. The partnership between Venum and the UFC will not be as long as the 6-year agreement with Reebok (or as lucrative), but the brand, which is already popular with fighters, will gain valuable exposure in future UFC events. While Reebok will continue to be the official footwear of the UFC through 2021, it remains to be seen what their future holds long-term as a sponsor within mixed martial arts.
MJ’s Midas Touch Comes To Racing
While his Jordan brand continues to be an industry leader in sports and fashion, Michael Jordan has taken his talents to NASCAR. Jordan and Denny Hamlin launched their new racing team, 23XI, in 2020 with Bubba Wallace as their driver. It remains to be seen if the 23XI brand will hold the same way as the Air Jordan brand and its +$100 million in sales in its first year. If early indicators point to success though, the first 23XI merchandise release selling out within five minutes shows the influence that Michael Jordan still has almost two decades after retirement from basketball.
A Spanos Spat Equals Opportunity for Bezos
One of the minority owners of the Los Angeles Chargers has filed a petition in the LA courts to force a sale of the team due to financial issues. This gets more interesting, as the minority owner is Dea Spanos Berberian, sister of controlling owner, Dean Spanos. Should this move forward, many believe it may be the ideal opportunity for Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, to enter the arena of sports ownership. Enough so that he is specifically mentioned in this petition. Interestingly, this is the second time in a decade a family dispute may lead to the forced sale of a professional sports franchise in Los Angeles. Major League Baseball famously seized control of the Dodgers from Frank McCourt in 2011 following financial issues post-divorce.
Be on the lookout next week for the usual round-up of sponsorship news.