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Sports Team of the Year

Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves

After Ronald Acuna Jr.’s season-ending injury, the Braves traded for six players, four of whom were in the team’s lineup for their first World Series title in 26 years — an aggressive approach made possible through forward-thinking budget planning. Everything else followed. The Braves posted a franchise-record $568 million in revenue, were No. 1 on Fanatics for online MLB merchandise sales with a 527% increase over 2021, and were in MLB’s top three for follower growth and engagement on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Their average gate per game ($1.32 million) was the highest in franchise history.

 

Los Angeles Rams

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams became the second team to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium, doing it in the first year with fans allowed in SoFi Stadium, an opulent venue financed by owner Stan Kroenke that has quickly become the NFL’s West Coast flagship. Before the season, the team surpassed $600 million in seat license sales, putting them on pace to set a new industry benchmark. On the personnel side, the Rams upended conventional wisdom with their highly successful strategy of trading numerous draft picks for immediate-impact stars.

 

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Austin FC

Austin FC was a successful expansion launch with naming partners for stadium (Q2) and jersey (Yeti). It was the only MLS franchise to sell out 100% of its home matches in 2021. The club also scheduled outside events, including hosting the Team USA World Cup qualifier. The team ranked No. 1 in MLS team merchandise sales and No. 2 in sponsorship sales. Meanwhile, at the end of 2021, Austin’s season-ticket waitlist exceeded 32,000 while 96% of season-ticket members renewed after last year heading into the current campaign. Additionally, 4ATX Foundation, Austin’s nonprofit arm, donated over $738,000 to local organizations.    

 

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Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee saw a big spike in merchandise sales after winning its second championship in franchise history. During the playoff run, more than 800,000 visitors came through the Deer District surrounding Fiserv Forum, leading to increased revenue for Bucks retail and food and beverage operations and for surrounding businesses. Overall, the team increased its marketable fan database by 20% during the playoff run. The Bucks also signed influential sponsors, such as their first gaming partner Betway, and were a leader in vaccination initiatives with health partners.

 

Golden State Warriors

Golden State Warriors

Golden State was No. 1 in the NBA in overall ticketing revenue, including season tickets and total suite revenue, and was the league’s top team in merchandise sales both online and in the team store, far surpassing the league average. The Warriors also ended last season as No. 1 in the NBA in arena per cap and average gate receipts. They were the only team in professional sports to offer free COVID-19 testing both at home and on-site for fans coming to games, and were among the first to integrate the Clear Health Pass with COVID-19 testing partner Lucira Health. In November, the Warriors Community Foundation announced its largest grant to date of $1.85 million, which went to a total of 51 nonprofits.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning’s off-ice success in the past year has mirrored the on-ice performance, with the franchise becoming the third team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups (2020 and 2021) since 1998. The team led the league in follower growth across social media and came in at No. 1 in paid tickets per game for the 2021-22 season. This season marked the fourth consecutive year Tampa was in the top three in overall league attendance. New season-ticket revenue totaled $5.7 million while sponsorship revenue numbers were 120% of the NHL league average, including a 10% year-over-year increase. Retail revenue saw a 214% year-over-year uptick, too. The organization also donated $5.2 million to the local community.

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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.

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