August 4, 2021

What We're Reading: August 2021

Sports. Data. Summer.  We hope you are enjoying the summer and return of sports as much as we are.  While the unprecedented concentration of major sporting events starts to cool down, what better time to catch up on some summer reading? Here are our top storylines from the sports industry:

The Olympics are in full swing and these off-cycle games are as eventful as ever.

Despite the incongruity of the 2020 Olympic Games occurring in 2021, this edition has brought the same mix of ecstasy, agony, and every emotion in between we love about the celebration of global sport. When the opening ceremony kicked off the games on July 23rd, longtime SSAC supporter Sue Bird was leading the way as a flag bearer for Team USA. Alongside her was Eddy Alvarez who medaled in Speed Skating at the 2018 Winter Olympics and is playing on the Baseball team for these games. Tune into those games, though, and you will see differences from MLB from the small (pitch speeds in kilometers per hour) to the large (rout rules, two runners on base for extra innings). This is not the only sport with some differences from the US domestic professional leagues that have caused problems for the Americans. Analytics have taken a prominent place in the mainstream broadcast with swimmer speeds overlaid on the action from the pool and erstwhile election prognosticator Steve Kornacki breaking down the odds in various competitions. Even so, the pressure on and emotions felt by the athletes have dominated the conversation with considerations of mental health raised to the fore during a uniquely challenging Games. We will be watching in rapt attention as the competitions enter their last week and the athletes continue to amaze with their ability, courage, and perseverance.

New Name, Image, and Likeness rules are here, shaking up the college sports landscape.

When Sunisa Lee shocked the world to win the women’s all-around gymnastics competition, she not only earned an Olympic gold medal but also opened the door for millions in future endorsement earnings. Under prior rules the break out star of these games and Auburn commit would have to choose between those endorsements and collegiate competition, but with the new regulations passed as of July 1 that allow college athletes to profit from their names, images, and likenesses she can do both. A flurry of deals have been announced in the aftermath of the rule change - these projects range from crowd funding campaigns to support causes with significance to the athletes, entrepreneurial ventures, and social media driven marketing deals. Concerns that these new rules could deepen competitive and recruiting disparities have not gone away with some of the eye popping figures announced for stars from major programs. At the SEC media day, Nick Saban made waves by stating that Alabama quarterback Bryce Young - who has not yet played a snap for the Crimson Tide - already has nearly $1M in endorsement deals. 

NFTs are here to stay?

Back in March we wrote about the non-fungible token (NFT) boom in the sports collectible space and, despite a cool down from the record prices of that time, these digital assets have continued to change multiple facets of the game. NFTs as collectibles continue to grab headlines with an Andy Murray collectible celebrating his 2013 Wimbledon win fetching $177,000 at auction, start ups in the space raising lucrative funding rounds, established players starting their own marketplaces, and even one of the aforementioned college athletes cashing in on NIL doing so with an NFT in partnership with Nike founder Phil Knight. Collectibles are far from the only application of blockchain technology making waves in sports, however. The Sacramento Kings are experimenting with an NFT ticketing experience for their summer league games, and Sportradar has been using blockchain to facilitate remote drug testing while under restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This technology is making its mark on the sports world across several fronts and fans are sure to notice - how could they not when the writing is literally on the wall with cryptocurrency exchanges like FTX joining the ranks of stadium naming sponsors?