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Over the past week, China has faced increasing pressure from the United Nations over the whereabouts of Chinese tennis star, Peng Shuai.

The IOC has since published a statement claiming that President Thomas Bach has held a video call with Chinese player, however, the WTA has said that the call does not address its concerns over Shuai's wellbeing.

The issue continues to be far more important than any story I could cover across the sports industry. And it's so important that it continues to be top of mind. 

Green Bay's Backers: Fan's buy 'stock' in NFL franchise to fund stadium developments.

The NFL’s Green Bay Packers have reportedly sold more than 125,000 stock shares (worth approx. $38m) since opening sales last week. The team intends to sell 300,000 by the 25th February in order to raise $90m for construction projects at Lambaeu Field, including for new video boards and concourse upgrades.

This is the sixth time in the storied NFL franchise’s history that they have offered shares to the public. The last time was in 2011, with earlier sales happening in 1923, 1935, 1950, and 1997. According to the team, around 5 million of these various iterations of shares are currently held by around 361,300 stockholders.

However, this is not ‘stock’ in the common sense of the term. “Anyone considering the purchase of Packers stock should not purchase the stock in order to make a profit or to receive a dividend or tax deduction or any other economic benefits,” the Packers noted in a press release about the offering.

So, what exactly is it that these fans are buying then? Bragging rights, mainly. Fans want to feel as they have an ownership within a team that is unique in the NFL. The shareholders also get invited to the annual stockholder meeting at Lambeau Field and offers for exclusive merchandise; and receive a certificate for framing.

Our Take: While in this case the Packers haven’t utilised emerging blockchain technologies, this story does provide a strong proof of concept for the future of technologies such as NFTs and fan tokens. The sale of the ‘stock’ displays fan’s appetite to invest in their team (beyond just speculation). Crucially (and this is where NFT projects should take notes) this is driven by the motivation of fans to,

a) be part of a community; and

b) support a cause (i.e., stadium rejuvenation)

📚 Further Reading

NFTs (The Good)
  • LDN UTD launch NFT collection supported by the Rio Ferdinand Foundation, with a new design released every 72 hours and an IRL scavenger hunt - Esports News
  • Funding Community Grassroots Through A World First In NFTs: Canadian Youth Soccer Club Strikes A New Fundraising Venture - AITHORITY
NFTs (The Bad & The Ugly)
  • FC Barcelona cancels marketing agreement with NFT marketplace Ownix - Coindesk
  • Manchester City suspend partnership with cryptocurrency start-up 3Key - The Guardian
Last week, NBC agreed a deal with the Premier League for broadcasting rights to all 380 games a season in the U.S. worth $2.6bn over six seasons. That’s a huge $430m a season!

This news led Ricardo Fort, former Vice President, Global Sports and Entertainment Partnerships at Coca-Cola, to claim that, “There is no such thing as the ‘Big 5’ European Leagues. There is the Premier League and very far behind, everyone else.”

So, how can these other leagues compete?

Well, Rory Smith, Chief Soccer Correspondent for the New York Times, suggests that if he was advising the likes of LaLiga or Serie A, he would “advocate going free-to-air (in as many countries as possible) for ten years to build up an audience, and then charge them for it, rather than expecting people to pay for a product they don’t care about."

What do you think? Is going free-to-air the only way for other leagues to compete in the long-term? Let me know by replying to this email.
📚 Further Reading

  • MLB secures German free-to-air exposure in long-term Sport1 deal - SportBusiness
  • United Rugby Championship secures free-to-air Italian coverage - Insider Sport
  • NHL goes free-to-air in Germany with ProSieben MAXX deal - Digital TV Europe
  • World Athletics and European Broadcasting Union renew free-to-air rights deal until 2029 - SportsPro
  • ITV seeks to renew lucrative horse-racing rights - Financial Times
Global Expansion 
  • A big moment for Formula 1 in China as Guanyu Zhou is announced to partner Valtteri Bottas for Alfa Romeo next season, while the Shanghai race was recently extended to 2025, despite no race this season. Zhou becomes the first ever full time Chinese F1 driver.
  • FIFA has not yet managed to fill all of its sponsorship slots for next year’s World Cup and experts believe big brands may be scared off by Qatar’s human rights record and laws against homosexuality. Amnesty International is urging FIFA Qatar World Cup sponsors to use their influence to press the Middle East state to make reforms. 
Licensing  Metaverse
  • Nike is taking another step into the metaverse with the release of its new virtual world in Roblox called Nikeland. Users have access to Nike-branded apparel, mini-games, and even buildings modeled after Nike’s HQ.
Global Expansion
  • As part of a multi-year partnership deal signed between the NBA and Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, the league will play games in city as part of the 2022-23 preseason schedule. The groundbreaking partnership marks first games between NBA teams in the Gulf region.
In Episode 6 of Sports Pundit Explains… Sponsorship, Andy and Murray are joined by Tim McLoughlin, former Head of Sponsorship at Cinch and, to discuss building a brand, the unique benefits of sponsorship, and how rightsholders could improve their pitches.
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