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Sports Event of the Year

Courtesy of Major League Baseball

MLB at Field of Dreams

Even before Tim Anderson’s “stalk-off” home run landed in the cornfield to give the White Sox a 9-8 comeback win over the Yankees on Aug. 12, it was clear that MLB’s first attempt at staging a regular-season game on the site where the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” had been filmed was a success. Thanks to riveting pregame ceremonies in which players emerged from the cornfield and actor Kevin Costner delivered a perfect speech, to a back-and-forth slugfest that lasted all game long, it’s no wonder that it became the most-watched regular-season baseball game on any network since 1998 and the most streamed regular-season baseball game in Fox Sports history. The per caps for fans attending in Dyersville, Iowa, were seven times greater than a typical regular-season game in 2021. Fox generated more ad sales revenue from it than from any other regular-season game during the network’s 25-year relationship with MLB. Other leagues quickly began exploring whether they could do something to mimic the game’s success.

 

Courtesy of PGA of America

2021 PGA Championship

History was made at the 2021 PGA Championship at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, with then 50-year-old Phil Mickelson becoming the oldest major champion in golf history. Mickelson’s two-stroke win over Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen saw CBS draw its best final round viewership for the PGA Championship since 2018, and scenes of the energetic crowd were reminiscent of the madness at Augusta in 1986, when a 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus won his last Masters. Mickelson’s win cemented the tournament as one of the biggest days in the sport’s history, providing a post-COVID celebration that could only have been reserved for Mickelson.

 

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NASCAR Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum

NASCAR and its executive team — Steve Phelps, Steve O’Donnell, Ben Kennedy and others — have earned credit across the industry for being creative, thinking differently and successfully executing the Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum. The idea, credited to the 30-year-old Kennedy, was praised by even the most hardened NASCAR veterans because it did everything they talked about doing for years: go to a new market; expose live racing to new fans; get their teams excited; and show some swagger. Considering the media and promotional value and the boost to stakeholder morale and excitement, it’s hard to think of a more successful way the series could have started its season.

 

Circuit of the Americas

Formula One United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas

F1 has taken the American sports landscape by storm, as the circuit’s growing commitment to staging races stateside, coupled with the popular “Drive to Survive” series on Netflix, has made it one of the hottest properties across the industry. Nowhere was that more apparent than at last year’s U.S. Grand Prix in Austin. Weekend attendance at Circuit of the Americas reached 400,000, which topped the projection of 360,000. The Grand Prix also set a new audience record on ABC, and was up 42% from 2019 (no race in 2020 due to the pandemic). COTA has also played a huge role in reestablishing F1 in America in the last decade, and F1 signed a new five-year deal with the track in February to keep the Grand Prix there through 2026.

 

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Super Bowl LVI

The Los Angeles Rams’ Super Bowl LVI win was huge not just in the moment but for the future of a team seeking to build a new generation of L.A. fans after 20 years in St. Louis. The Big Game also marked a return to normal for the entire sports business industry, as a full capacity crowd descended on the City of Angels after a limited capacity Super Bowl in Tampa the year before. All the bells and whistles of SoFi Stadium were on full display, complete with more than 900 concession points of sale. Meanwhile, the game drew its highest TV audience since 2017. Downtown L.A. and the SoFi area were the two primary locations for parties and events, though there was also plenty of VIP activity in Beverly Hills, Hollywood and near the beaches.

 

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2022 Discover NHL Winter Classic

The 2022 NHL Winter Classic became a postcard for Minnesota on a Saturday night at Target Field, where the St. Louis Blues defeated the Wild 6-4. A minus-6-degree puck drop made this the coldest outdoor game in NHL history, but that couldn’t stop a sellout crowd, announced at 38,619, from showing up. To say the NHL put on a show would be putting it lightly. There was an on-field concert by country singer Thomas Rhett between the first and second periods, the introduction of the U.S. Olympics women’s hockey team in between the second and third periods, plus periodic youth hockey games during breaks in the NHL tilt itself. All in all, the Winter Classic was a victory lap for the league and Wild owner Craig Leipold, who had been trying to get the Winter Classic to the Twin Cities for more than a decade.

 

WWE

WWE SummerSlam

Last summer’s WWE SummerSlam event in Las Vegas — the first at an NFL stadium and the first full-capacity event at Allegiant Stadium — had over 51,000 fans in attendance, making it the largest indoor attendance for the event and the WWE’s most-attended event of 2021. That turnout quickly convinced the WWE to return to Allegiant on Fourth of July weekend 2022, setting up a second event — Money in the Bank — at the Raiders’ home venue. The return of John Cena and Brock Lesnar helped SummerSlam break multiple records, including becoming the most-viewed and highest-grossing SummerSlam in WWE history. WWE President and CRO Nick Khan also cited the event as a successful execution of their decision to move some pay-per-view to Saturday nights.

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: August 9, 2022

The end of the Bowlen era in Denver; Big Ten media deal close? Also, Jake Paul's venture in sports betting and Eck's walk-off.

SBJ I Factor: Jed York

SBJ I Factor: Jed York, presented by Allied Sports SBJ I Factor presented by Allied Sports features an interview with San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York. York is in his 17th year with the organization and his 12th as CEO. He is a two-time SBJ Forty Under 40 honoree as a member of the classes of 2012 and 2013. York talks with SBJ’s Abe Madkour about what he learned from growing up in the sports business, working in multiple departments at the team, the challenges of building Levi’s Stadium, and how his leadership style has evolved through the years. SBJ I Factor is a monthly podcast offering interviews with sports executives who have been recipients of one of the magazine’s awards, such as Forty Under 40, Game Changers and others.

SBJ Spotlight: Warner Bros. Discovery

CNBC media reporter Alex Sherman joins SBJ’s John Ourand to discuss Warner Bros. Discovery’s streaming strategy. The two talk about the company’s interest in sports rights, with Sherman noting that the company is in a cost-cutting mode, which is one reason why it has not been active in media rights negotiations over the past several months.

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