Sports Brands Vying for Consumers as Live Spectators Return to Arenas
Sporting competitions have been a mainstay in society since prehistory. Cave paintings in France dating back more than 15,000 years appear to depict sprinting and wrestling bouts. These days, sports are not only a popular source of entertainment but also big business. Market research provider Statista valued the North American sports market, which consists of gate revenues, media rights, sponsorships and merchandising, at about $71.06 billion. The firm expects that figure to increase to $83.1 billion by 2023.
With the NBA playoffs, Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) matchups, as well as professional baseball and Olympic trials and more underway, let’s take a look at some of the major publicly traded players in the sporting arena.
One of the fastest-rising sports globally, mixed martial arts (MMA) trails only soccer and basketball in worldwide popularity. Its growth has led to speculation about whether it will reign supreme in the sports world one day. Xtreme Fighting Championships (Tii:DKMR) is the first publicly traded premier international mixed martial arts organization. Through partnerships with the FOX family of networks in the United States, as well as Rede TV! (the largest open television broadcasters in Latin America), HBO, ESPN, NBC Sports Network, Telemundo Universo, and more, XFC bouts can be viewed throughout much of the world. The company wrapped up XFC 44 and YoungGuns 2 on May 28th, which was broadcast live on FOX Sports 2, FOX Deportes and streamed globally on XFCTV.com.
The company behind the National Basketball Association’s New York Knicks and the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers, Madison Square Garden Sports Corp. (Tii:MSGS) is looking to shake off the pandemic’s impact on in-person sporting events last year. The company, which also owns e-sports teams through Counter Logic Gaming, a leading North American esports organization, welcomed more than 15,000 fans in early June as the Knicks squared off against the Atlanta Hawks. Madison Square Garden Sports expanded seating for fully-vaccinated fans, marking the largest indoor crowd to gather in New York since the start of the pandemic. Its sister company, Madison Square Garden Entertainment (Tii:MSGE), controls live events at Madison Square Garden, the arena which (in addition to the Knicks and Rangers games) hosts college basketball, professional wrestling, boxing, MMA and even Professional Bull Riding (PBR) competitions.
A leading racing, online wagering and gaming entertainment company anchored by the iconic Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs Incorporated (Tii:CHDN) owns and operates three gaming entertainment venues with approximately 3,050 historical racing machines in Kentucky. The company also owns one of the largest and most profitable online wagering platforms and brick-and-mortar casino gaming locations in eight states. While the pandemic impacted the company’s brick-and-mortar operations, it also benefited from the shift to online betting. Net revenue for Churchill Down’s first quarter increased 28% to $324.3 million, on record first-quarter revenue from its TwinSpires Horse Racing business. Ratings for the 147th Kentucky Derby came in strong, with a peak viewership of 15.7 million and an average of 14.5 million viewers.
While the popularity of professional wrestling has ebbed and flowed over the decades, the faux sport (technically an athletic theatrical exhibition) has maintained a die-hard fanbase since matches were first broadcast around the country during the early days of television. At the forefront is World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (Tii:WWE), whose origins can be traced back to the 1950s. The company has struggled as a result of the pandemic, with first-quarter revenues sliding 9% to $263.5 million as ticketed live events and large-scale international events were put on hold. On the positive side, the WWE Network launched on Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming service, expanding the reach of WWE’s live pay-per-views, original series and in-ring shows. The company also announced a multi-year extension with USA Network for WWE NXT, a professional wrestling television program. NBCUniversal and USA Network are subsidiaries of Comcast Corporation (Tii:CMCSA).
With live spectators slowly returning to stadiums, arenas and other venues for sporting events, expect these and other players to ramp up marketing efforts to entice consumers into enjoying the thrill of a live competition.