Bulls Rookie Lauri Markkanen on All-Star Weekend and the FBI Recruiting Scandal

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Bulls Rookie Lauri Markkanen participated in both the NBA Rising Star’s Challenge (scored 15 on 7/11 shooting) on Friday night and the Skills Competition (finishing 2nd to Spencer Dinwiddie) on All-Star Saturday night. Panini America, which has been featuring Markkanen on cards all season as one of the league’s more prominent rookies, is selling special edition cards from All-Star weekend and will have one for Lauri. JohnWallStreet had the chance to speak to Lauri on Saturday afternoon and hit several topics including the All-Star he was most excited to meet in Los Angeles.

JWS: You’re from Finland. It would have been an easy decision to play professionally in Europe last year, make a bunch of money and then declare yourself eligible for the NBA draft; but, you chose to play at Arizona for free. Why?

Lauri: I played my whole life in Europe. I had a lot to learn. The game is a little bit different here. At the same time, I was looking at my long-term goal; I wanted to be in the NBA, so I thought college basketball was the right direction to do. 

JWS: Arizona was implicated in the FBI recruiting scandal. North Carolina and Utah also heavily recruited you. Did anyone offer you money?

Lauri: I don’t know what schools are involved, but I was fortunate enough to have coaches (see: Sean Miller) that didn’t do it (pay players).

Howie Long-Short: Recent reports indicate that as many as 50 schools could be wrapped in the FBI investigation, including half of the Top 16 teams in the country. I tend to believe Lauri when he says no NCAA program offered him money. He passed up a European pro contract to play college ball and his father was a professional basketball player; he wouldn’t seem like the type of prospect that could be “bought”.

Fan Marino: As a rookie, this weekend may have been your first opportunity to spend time with some of the league’s biggest stars. Which All-Star were you most excited to meet?

Lauri: Growing up, LeBron was my favorite player; so, I was excited to meet him.

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Dillon Returns #3 Chevrolet to Victory Lane, Discusses Personal Stock Portfolio

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Austin Dillon, the grandson of Richard Childress (he races for Richard Childress Racing), won the 2018 Daytona 500; winning The Great American Race in the #3 Chevrolet (GM) car, 20 years after Dale Earnhardt Jr. broke his career-long draught at the 2.5-mile track. Run in front of a sold-out crowd (101,500 reserved stadium seats), Dillon used a “last-lap, bump and run move that was absolutely Earnhardt-like” to win the 60th edition of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. Austin follows the market closely and shared some insight on his personal portfolio with JohnWallStreet.

JWS: Do you personally invest in your corporate sponsors?

Dillon: Every sponsor that I have, that is traded (DWDP, GIS), I have stock in. It works well. You can build together. When you are running well, they are doing well. It’s cool how that works.

JWS: You mentioned that you do a little bit of trading for fun. Can you share a few of your holdings?

Dillon: Caterpillar (CAT), I had them as one of our partners for a while; my Grandpa did well on Caterpillar. Builders First Source (BLDR) has been doing well. Nintendo (NTDOY). I was playing Pokeman like crazy when it came out and was like I should get some stock, they’ve been doing well.

Can you give us one trade you’d like to have back?

Dillon: I messed up on Tesla (TSLA), badly. I had it at $44. One of my engineers was like ‘it’s not going anywhere’ and I sold it (currently at $335.49). I had around 200 shares.

Howie Long-Short: While Dillon only references DWDP and GIS (as corporate sponsors he invests in), he owned shares of Cabela’s prior to the its $4 billion acquisition by Bass Pro Shops. Bass Pro Shops remains one of Dillon’s sponsors, but is not publicly traded.

Fan Marino: Dillon returning the famed #3 Chevrolet to Victory Lane was the biggest story line from Sunday’s race, but there were several other noteworthy headlines. Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. returned a Richard Petty Motorsports car to the Daytona 500; the rookie finished 2nd, the highest ever finish for an African-American driver (and first time an African American has participated in the race since Wendell Scott in 1969). Danica Patrick was also competing in her last NASCAR race. She finished 35th after being involved in a Turn 3 crash on Lap 102. The wreck also ended the day for Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick.

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500 to the 500, Kevin Harvick and Daniel Blake (Busch Beer) on the Unique Promotion

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Busch Beer ran an impactful 500 to the 500 promotion, bringing 500 fans to Sunday’s running of The Great American Race; the 2018 Daytona 500. The lucky winners received flights, hotel and airfare, as well as a chance to meet and take a photo with Kevin Harvick. JohnWallStreet was in Daytona Beach and got a chance to speak with both Kevin Harvick and Daniel Blake (Busch Beer’s Brand Manager) about the promotion just hours before the race.

JWS: You agreed to travel from Daytona Beach to Orlando (50+ miles, then back), the night before the biggest race of the season to meet your fans. Why did you agree to do that?

Kevin: I would say this unique because it is such a big promotion and Busch put so much into it; it was also planned way in advance. It’s an opportunity to have more interaction with the fans than you would walking through the garage or at the racetrack, because you are in competition mode. As long as I can manage my time and know what I’m getting into, I’m good with it. I’m also in Daytona Beach by myself, my family doesn’t come in until tomorrow; and I like to do stuff to take my mind off things, anyways.

JWS: You mentioned that if a sponsor is willing to put the time and effort into a promotion of this size, it’s certainly worth your while to participate; regardless of how close it is to the race. How does it benefit you?    

Kevin: The biggest pop of the season, from a marketing and exposure standpoint, is going to come in the first 6 weeks. The majority of your souvenir sales, unless you win the championship, happen in the first 2 weeks. You can follow the TV ratings and everything that happens within the sport. The bigger you make this week, the bigger the next 5 weeks are.   

JWS: Busch Beer had a Super Bowl ad in 2017. In 2018, you re-allocated those funds (1/3 of the marketing budget) to do this event. Why did you make that decision?

Blake: The timing. NASCAR’s biggest event of the year is at the start of the season and we wanted our biggest promotion to be at the start of the season as well. There’s no better way to do that than sending 500 fans to the Daytona 500, for one of the most memorable experiences of their life. It’s not just a once in a lifetime racing experience, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for some of these fans to get out of their hometowns, to see Florida, to get on a plane and to meet new people with a common interest.

JWS: How do you gauge the success (or lack thereof) of a campaign like this?

Blake: Social buzz and impressions, volume sales and shares are another; but, for something like this it’s more intangible. It’s difficult to measure sending 500 fans on a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but those are the type of things that resonate and hopefully compound. They (the winners) tell their friends and family about the brand and the great experience they had here.

Howie Long-Short: Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) reported its value brand portfolio, led by the Busch brand family, performed well in both Q2 and Q3 ’17. Busch has a loyal consumer base and its brands require minimal investment; positive news for a company that has watched Budweiser fall out of the Top 3 in U.S. sales (Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite are the Top 3, Budweiser is 4th).

Fan Marino: Fans that pulled checkered cans from packages of Busch and Busch Light, were then asked to submit videos expressing their enthusiasm for both the brand and their interest in attending the Daytona 500. Christina Pin was among the 250 winners (each got to bring a guest) and brought her husband to the race. I asked Christina to describe the video that got her selected and her reaction when she found out she had won.

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NASCAR Experiences 80% Increase in Snapchat Viewership Following App’s Re-Design

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A newly re-designed Snapchat application (SNAP), with an increased focus on Discover, has given NASCAR an 80% boost in the number of viewers who watch its stories. Discover, the platform that allows verified media companies (plus influencers, brands and celebrities) to run their own channels and to split the ad revenue generated, was given its own section following the SNAP update. On last week’s earnings call, the company announced that +/- 25% of all users were using the re-designed app; insinuating viewership numbers should continue to increase. The re-design will be fully deployed by March 31st.

Howie Long-Short: While the re-design is being panned by younger users, it appears to be serving its purpose; to give publishers, brands, influencers (i.e. the people who monetize the platform) the ability to increase eyeballs (and ultimately revenue). SNAP reported Q4 ‘17 revenue increased 72% YOY (to $286 million), while revenue per user grew 46% YOY; the image messaging and multi-media mobile application also added 8.9 million daily users (to 187 million) during the most recent quarter. It wasn’t all positive news though, GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) net losses more than doubled (as costs soared, ex: R&D +260%) during the quarter. It should be noted that with a market cap of +/-$24 billion, the company is trading at an absurd +/-30x ’17 earnings.

Fan Marino: The Hashtag 500 will be returning for the 60th running of the Daytona 500, giving fans the chance to compete on social media for memorabilia from Sunday’s race. To play, tune in to Fox at 2:30p EST and follow @NASCAR on Twitter (TWTR); they’ll be releasing custom hashtags (every 20 laps) that give fans the chance to enter random drawings for race gear (see rules, here). A driver’s fire suit, helmet, steering wheel and a set of Goodyear Tires are among the prizes to be won; the grand prize is a trip for 2 to the ’18 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship in Miami. The ’16 Hashtag 500 set several NASCAR social media records, including tweets per minute (13,000).

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Entertainment & Retail District at Daytona International Speedway Opens

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One Daytona, a lifestyle and entertainment complex located directly across the street from the Daytona International Speedway, is now open. Developed by the International Speedway Corporation (ISCA), the 300,000 SF space (estimated to cost about $150 million) is filled with a collection of shops, restaurants, hotels and apartments. Victory Circle, the epicenter of the newly created entertainment and retail district, hosts live music Thursday-Sunday; always free and open to the public.

Howie Long-Short: The International Speedway Corporation (ISCA) owns and operates the Daytona International Speedway and a dozen other race tracks; including the Talladega Superspeedway and the Martinsville Speedway. In late January, the company noted that full-year 2017 revenue ($671.4 million) grew to levels it hadn’t seen since ’10, sending share prices up 10.6% (to $45.30). Shares hit a high of $47.15 on February 1st, before settling back down to $45.05 at Thursday’s close.

Fan Marino: Daytona 500 News and Notes:

  • Alex Bowman, the man replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports (and driving the #88 car), won the pole for Sunday’s race; finishing at the top of the leader board after two qualifying rounds.
  • Peyton Manning will serve as the Honorary Pace Car Driver, where he will be behind the wheel of a Toyota Camry XSE pacing the 40-car field prior to Sunday’s race. (Editor Note: JohnWallStreet is taking a lap in the pace car, early Sunday morning. To see video, follow us on Twitter @HowieLongShort).
  • Academy Award and Golden Globe winning actress (for role in Monster, ‘03) Charlize Theron, will be the Honorary Starter for the 60th annual Daytona 500. Theron, also known for roles in Italian Job, A Million Ways to Die in the West and The Fate and the Furious, will waive the green flag indicating the race is starting.

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NASCAR’s Kevin Harvick Discusses the Daytona 500 and the Success of “Bloomin’ Mondays”

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February 10, 2018: Kevin Harvick during practice at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fl. (HHP/Harold Hinson)

The 60th annual edition of the Daytona 500, will be run on Sunday. JohnWallStreet will be in attendance, along with the 500 fans that Busch beer (BUD) is bringing to the event; providing coverage all weekend long (follow us on Twitter @HowieLongShort). Before we head down to Daytona, we got a chance to catch up with Kevin Harvick; who finished 3rd in 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings. In Part 2 of 2 (link to Part 1 of interview), Kevin discusses his sponsors for the 2018 season, the significance of this particular race and the success of “Bloomin’ Mondays”.

JWS: The Daytona 500 is the biggest event on the NASCAR calendar. For those that are not NASCAR fans, can you try to explain why that is and the significance of the race?

Kevin: Well, it goes back to when they raced on the beach. This is the birth place of our sport. Bill France had a dream to build a really big racetrack and came and built the Daytona Speedway. There is no other race that matches the hype and there is no other race that matches that magnitude of winning the Harley J. Earl Trophy; putting your name on the list of Daytona 500 winners. It’s hard to explain the magnitude of it, until you experience winning the race. The celebration is different, you celebrate like you won a championship, because, basically you have. Winning the Daytona 500 can make a whole year. 

JWS: If you must pick one, do you want to win the Daytona 500 or the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship?

Kevin: I want to win them both (laughing) but, I will tell you this, in 2007 when we won the Daytona 500, we did not have a great year; but, nobody remembers anything about that year except for, that is the year that I beat Mark Martin in the Daytona 500. It’s just that big. You have more sponsors show up, more celebrities show up, more fans show up, the TV ratings are higher, the radio ratings are higher, the exposure is greater and there isn’t anything about it that isn’t bigger.

JWS: Do you have any new sponsors in place for the 2018 season?

Kevin: Everything is pretty much the same. Jimmy John’s is on board again, Busch (BUD) is the other primary; along with Mobile One (XOM). Outback (BLMN) is activating heavily with their “Bloomin’ Mondays” (editor note: only program every Outback franchisee participates in) and they’re seeing a $10,000-$12,000 increase (in revenue, per store), pretty much every time we get a Top 10 finish.

Howie Long-Short: International Speedway Corporation (ISCA) spent $400 million on Daytona International Speedway renovations, for annual incremental EBITDA of just $15 million. That’s not an ideal ROI.

Fan Marino: Do you have a “most memorable” Daytona 500 experience, as a fan?

Kevin: I went there in 1995 for the first time and was in the grandstand going into turn one, watching the qualifying races. I grew up in Bakersfield, CA. I had never been to a racetrack of that size, let alone to the Daytona 500; so, to sit there and watch those cars go around the racetrack and to see all the cars you see on TV, it was eye opening. (note: Sterling Marlin won the 1995 Daytona 500.)

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Panini World Cup Sticker Collection Returning for Russia 2018

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Panini, the world leader in officially licensed collectibles, is also the most significant publisher of collectibles in the U.S.; with exclusive licenses to the NFL and NBA (and several other leagues). The company has been the exclusive sticker provider of the FIFA World Cup since 1970 and their quadrennial sticker collection, expected to be released on March 15th and on shelves across the country by April 1st, is a favorite among fans world-wide. I had a chance to chat with Panini America VP of Marketing Jason Howarth to try and get a grasp on the sticker collection phenomenon and their plans for both the Daytona 500 and NBA All-Star Weekend.

JWS: The FIFA World Cup sticker collection is a global phenomenon that I’m not sure the U.S. sports fan fully appreciates. Can you share an experience from a previous World Cup, that might help to put it in to perspective for our readers?

Jason: Yeah, it was eye-opening in 2014 when the President of Colombia was getting out of his motorcade to swap stickers for his FIFA WC sticker collection; in the middle of an election.

JWS: Sunday, February 18th is an important day on the Panini calendar. Why is that?

Jason: Our first product of the season hits, when the Daytona 500 starts; our NASCAR Donruss product. It will be available at mass retailers, at hobby shops and online at iCollectPanini.com. We’re excited to have that product launch at the start of the season and we’re going to do everything we can to get those cards into the hands of NASCAR fans. We want to let them know that they can collect all of their favorite drivers and favorite teams.

JWS: The NBA All-Star Game is also this weekend, what do you guys have planned?

Jason: We’ll be active in the NBA Crossover Exhibit, showcasing memorabilia in an artistic way and showing how trading cards are made with our interactive display that will help people understand the process and evolution of a trading card and then we’ll have a Panini VIP Lounge at NBA All-Star; which is more hospitality for partners, guests and agents, but also player engagement. We’ll have some of the top rookies from this year’s class and some NBA all-stars coming through to do interviews and play pop-a-shot.  

Howie Long-Short: Loot boxes, which offer gamers random in-game virtual contents (but cost real money), have been considered by some to be a form of gambling. The Hawaii state legislature just put forward a set of bills that would ban the sale of loot boxes to buyers under the age of 21. When a kid buys a pack of cards, he/she doesn’t know what is inside. How does the trading card industry avoid the gambling comparisons?

Jason: On our boxes, it clearly states “guaranteed 2 memorabilia cards per box”, “guaranteed 5 autographs per box” or whatever are the key components of that specific Panini brand; you don’t know who you’re going to get, but you know what to expect. We also have insertion ratios on the boxes and the packs themselves, telling the collector how often randomly inserted cards are expected to fall.

Fan Marino: While on the topic of the NBA all-star offensive exhibition, the league is attempting to incentivize players to showcase their talents on both ends of the floor; offering an additional $50,000 ($100,000 total) to players on the winning team. I’m not sure that will do the trick. LeBron is making $30.96 million this season. If you made $100,000/year, would you be come to work on your day off (and give it 100%) for $161.49?

While you are thinking about it? Check out Panini’s Team LeBron all-star set. The Team Steph set will be released at 2p CST.

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