The end of January is rapidly approaching, here’s a look at some of the sports business news you may have missed this week! Japan strengthens its relationship with Rugby, and Naomi Osaka keeps winning away from the court. AC Milan invests in crypto, LeBron’s moves his personal brand away from Coca-Cola, and football comes to Fortnite. 

Did you know Japan are launching a new rugby union league? 

The Japanese Rugby Football Union announced 25 professional and amateur teams would compete across three national divisions in January 2022. 

Japanese rugby sports business


Previously, rugby teams in Japan were owned by major national corporations. Now, clubs will operate from their own revenues instead of commercial investment. 

Twelve teams will sit in the top division, split into six groups and will be led by points to judge final standings. Two games will be played in the same group and one against other opponents in the group. Alternatively, the second and third divisions will include seven and six teams with promotion and relegation playoff opportunities. 

This marks a lucrative chance to raise Japanese Rugby’s profile following the World Cup’s success in 2019. 

Naomi Osaka lands another luxury brand endorsement deal

The Japanese tennis star lands her second endorsement agreement this month with the luxury watch brand, Tag Heuer following her deal with French Fashion House, Louis Vuitton. The three-time Grand Slam winner joins tennis and golf players Petra Kvitova and Tommy Fleetwood on the Tag Heuer athlete ambassador roster. 

Naomi Osaka


The Swiss luxury watch brand recognises Naomi’s advocacy for raising awareness of societal issues accompanied by her illustrious athletic career to fit Tag Heuer’s organisational values. 

Last year, Osaka became the highest-paid female athlete by earning approximately $34 million through endorsement deals with Nike, Mastercard, Nissin and other brands. This agreement with Tag Heuer solidifies tennis’s relationship with the luxury fashion industry to leverage a new demographic to the sport. 

AC Milan ride the wave of the sports cryptocurrency

The Italian football giants have partnered with fintech blockchain firm, Chillz, to launch an $ACM fan token through fan engagement platform, in the next few weeks. The token will offer its owners the opportunity to gain exclusive access to voting in crucial decisions for the club each season, VIP experiences, club and sponsor promotions and ‘superfan’ recognition. 

AC MIlan sports business has over 450,000 downloads, over 14 million tokens sold alongside 700,000 votes being registered on the platform in one year. Twenty major sports properties have signed up to the medium, including FC Barcelona, PSG, Juventus, the UFC and the Professional Fighters League. 

Sports organisations riding the cryptocurrency movement is an essential part of the industries modernisation process. It provides sports fans with another way to interact with their beloved clubs and gain exclusive recognition from their teams rather than being categorised as an anonymous supporter. 

LeBron James Set To Part Ways With Cola-Cola and Sign With PepsiCo

LeBron James is preparing to join PepsiCo after endorsing Coca-Cola since being drafted in the NBA in 2003. The news was first reported by Front Office Sports. LeBron was recently ranked third on SportsPro’s list of the world’s 50 most marketable athletes in 2020. At the age of 36, LeBron is showing once again the strength of his personal brand and his ability to attract lucrative endorsement deals. 

Lebron James


Should his partnership with PepsiCo be confirmed, LeBron will join the likes of fellow NBA stars Zion Williamson, Joel Embiid and Jamal Murray in having an endorsement deal with the company. According to Forbes, LeBron is the fifth highest-paid athlete in the world, which estimates the Los Angeles Lakers star earned roughly $60 million last year from his endorsement deals with Nike, Beats Electronics and AT&T, among others.

Epic Sports and IMG Deal Brings Football To Fortnite

Epic Games has partnered with 23 football clubs worldwide to bring football to Fortnite via a deal facilitated by Fortnite’s licensing representative, IMG. With this agreement from January 23rd, gamers will have the opportunity to choose from 10 different variants of kit to represent their favourite club. Featured clubs are from a range of football leagues in Europe and the U.S including Premier League side Manchester City and Serie A giants AC Milan and Juventus.



Gamers will also be able to join select clubs in hosted Fortnite tournaments, whilst also having the opportunity to earn or purchase two new soccer-themed emotes which are victory dances during gameplay. Launching in July 2017, Fortnite has continued to be highly popular amongst both competitive and casual gamers. Fortnite has continued to prove its relevance within the Esports space and has diversified into merchandise. 

As the Esports industry continues to mature, other global video gaming companies could also look to partner with sports properties to create a potential larger fanbase for all involved. 

That’s the Sports Business Round Up done for another week! Is Japans independent rugby union league a sustainable venture? What are the odds of Naomi picking up another brand endorsement deal before February? How enticing will AC Milan’s cryptocurrency movement be for their fan engagement strategy? Could PepsiCo elevate LeBron in the top two marketable athletes of 2021? Has football taken its relationship with Esports to another level with their new Fortnite venture?

To read more from our insight series and previous Sports Business Round Ups click here.

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