Welcome to 2022 and welcome back to the Sports Business Weekly Wrap-up! We’re gearing up for another big year of sport and another big year in the world of sports business. Every Sunday, the Weekly Wrap-up will be here to provide a round up of some of the big news stories you may have missed over the last week. The first week back in January is always a bit of a weird one as people readjust to life back at work after the Christmas break but there’s been plenty going on including a deal to the tune of half a billion dollars. Here’s what you might have missed…

Monday

Fanatics x Topps

I’m technically counting this one as Monday because it happened whilst I was asleep so we’re calling it Monday…

Topps Trading Cards, which has been servicing collectors, fans and retailers for more than 70 years has been acquired by global sports retailer and merchandiser, Fanatics in a reported $500m deal.

(Photo by Matt Dirksen/Colorado Rockies/Getty Images)

 

The deal includes both the physical and digital arms of the Topps business which is important with the growth of the NFT space we saw in 2021. Launching in 1938, the trading card company has become one of the most recognisable names in the space. Topps launched their digital arm last year in April.

This move was first rumoured to be happening back in August 2021 after Fanatics secured a deal with Major League Baseball for the exclusive licenses to produce baseball cards. This brought an end to around 60 years of Topps producing these cards.

Fanatics CEO, Michael Rubin said “With trading cards and collectibles being a significant pillar of our long-term plans to become the leading digital sports platform, we are excited to add a leading trading cards company to build out our business,”

The digital side of this is deal obviously super interesting but what’s interesting is the access to distribution that Topps will now have through the Fanatics network. It’s going to be cool to see how this link up will work and how Fanatics decide to push the trading card side of the business.

Tuesday

Southampton’s new owners

Tuesday saw big news come from the Premier League as Southampton FC announced they had a new owner. Serbian-born cable television tycoon, Dragan Solak struck a £100m deal to buy a controlling stake of the club.  Through a new holding company, they will also be looking at other offers for clubs in international leagues, something we’ve seen the owners of Manchester City do in recent years. 

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St Mary’s Stadium, home to English Premier League Club Southampton FC, is pictured in Southampton, southern England on April 17, 2020. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

 

Former Brentford co-director of football, Rasmus Andersen and Henry Kraft, a London-based investor are also involved in the takeover at Southampton. Chinese businessman, Gao Jisheng bough an 80% stake of the club in 2017 but has been looking for a sale for a number of months. 

Now this takeover doesn’t take Southampton to the same level of Newcastle United in terms of spending power but with the club currently sat 14th in the league, it’ll certainly be interesting to see what the plan is going forward.

LaLiga x Amazon

Something else that caught my eye on Tuesday was LaLiga linking up with Amazon to launch an official store on the site. The Spanish league becomes the first football league to have its own e-commerce portal on the online retail giants website. 

 

Over 1,600 licensed products will be available in the UK, Germany, Italy and France through the official LaLiga store. 13 of the Spanish top-flight clubs will feature but Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid will not be a part of it. 

Executive director for LaLiga, Oscar Mayo said “It’s very important to offer LaLiga Santander and LaLiga SmartBank clubs all possible tools in order to bring our league closer to our fans around the world.” 

A good bit of international thinking from LaLiga.

Wednesday

ATP and FedEx go their separate ways 

Now, for a long time we’ve covered new sponsorship deals when they get announced but this might be a first as this is news about a partnership not being renewed. 

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FedEx, the US-based logistics company announced that it would not be renewing its global partnership with the Association of Tennis Professionals (or the ATP as everyone knows it…) 

The pair have been partners since 2010 but this deal finished at the end of 2021. FedEx said of the decision “FedEx regularly reviews our sport sponsorships to be fully aligned with our overall corporate strategy. We continuously explore sponsorship opportunities to support our commercial and community strategy.”

Thursday

AFCON x TikTok

TikTok’s push in to the world of sport continued on Thursday as they announced a partnership with the Confederation if African Football (CAF) that will see the video platform support the African  Cup of Nations which gets underway on Sunday. This partnership will also cover the CAF Champions League later this year and the CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco.

 

Pre and post-match content, highlights, soccer-related challenges and fan engagement with African players makes up the main part of the partnership but TikTok also promises to further engage with supporters of African football via in-app activations, a special hub for tournaments and unique features and filters. 

Veron Mosengo-Omba, CAF general secretary said “To us, this is not  just about being a football federation but about continuing to be the single-biggest football entertainment producers in Africa, giving fans everywhere, world-class football experiences throughout the year.”

Friday

NBA Launchpad brings new tech to basketball

The final thing I wanted to cover in this edition of the Weekly Wrap-up was news from the NBA and their new Launchpad venture. Now the NBA are big on their tech, they’ve got a diverse, young and international audience which means it’s one of the most progressive sports organisations when it comes to technology and digital things. 

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The NBA Launchpad initiative has been looking for technologies that could help address 4 specific areas: ankle injury innovation, elite youth player performance, referee training and development, and youth health and wellness. 

They have now selected five technology companies that it will work with and support over the next 6 months. BetterGuards, Breathwrk, Nextiles, Uplift Labs and our friends at Rezzil have been chosen by the NBA.

Evan Wasch, head of basketball strategy and analytics at the NBA said “Each company brings something unique to the table that will improve the game of basketball.” 

This seems like a really cool initiative from the NBA and one that will help the sport progress. I’m excited to see what happens over the next 6 months.

 

Thank you for reading the first edition of the Sports Business Weekly Wrap-up for 2022. If there are any sports business news stories we may have missed this week then make sure you hit us up on Twitter @BehindSport! If you want to read previous editions you can click here.