Bulls of the week
In a sport business year dominated by #OhtaniWatch (since even before the Major League Baseball trade deadline in July), the civil war in men’s professional golf triggered by the Saudi sovereign fund and the LIV Golf Series, and best-in-a generation television audiences for the NFL, the biggest winners this week included an edible mascot at the newly-christened Pop-Tarts Bowl.
In a 24-hour period anchored around the most visible of the American college football bowl games Thursday, the Pop-Tarts Bowl drove $12.1 million US in earned media for parent company Kellanova. Oh, and by the way, Kansas State defeated North Carolina State 28-19 in the actual game.
Meanwhile, CBS Sports made the most of its Nickelodeon game as part of the NFL triple-header on Christmas Day, averaging a television audience of more than 29.2 million Americans. The 20-14 win by the Las Vegas Raiders over the slumping Kansas City Chiefs saw plenty of slime and fun for the kids, with its viewership peaking at 37.6 million in the fourth quarter. The aggregate of the average audiences for the three games was more than 84 million Americans.
The NFL triple-header certainly overshadowed the NBA quintuple-header played Christmas Day, but it was a good week for the Boston Celtics. Their heritage brand rivalry matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers was the most-watched of the NBA Christmas Day games at an average national audience of 5.1 million. On the court, the Celtics go into the weekend with an NBA-best record of 24-6, having won nine of their last 10.
Yet the biggest winner this week could very well be the sport movie genre, with the cinematic release of both Ferrari and The Boys in the Boat, the University of Washington rowing drama set against the 1936 Berlin Olympics and directed by George Clooney.
Early advantage — both in terms of box office and critical reviews — goes to the Michael Mann production of Ferrari, with Adam Driver in the lead role of former race car driver, Formula One team boss and automobile industry icon Enzo Ferrari and Penelope Cruz as his wife Laura Ferrari. The Christmas Day release has already earned more than $10 million US at the box office, better than expected for a movie that had a production budget of $90 million and was originally slated to go direct to streaming. Also opening this week is the pro wrestling saga Iron Claw.
Bears of the week
This week was not a good look for the Denver Broncos, as they announced they’d consign quarterback Russell Wilson to the bench for the final two games of the 2023-’24 regular season. That happens all the time in the business of sport.
What isn’t as common is a franchise like the Broncos making this kind of move with a top-seven NFL quarterback when it comes to passer rating while still holding an outside chance at making the playoffs.
By doing what they’ve done and avoiding a further $39 million dollar milestone payment to Wilson and another $37 million in dead cap space, the Broncos have only rubbed salt into the wound of one of the most lopsided and costly trades in NFL history.
Reminder: It cost Denver three players and five draft picks, including first-rounders Devon Witherspoon and Charles Cross.
Tom Mayenknecht is the host of The Sport Market on Sportsnet 650 on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Vancouver-based sport business commentator and principal in Emblematica Brand Builders provides a behind-the-scenes look at the sport business stories that matter most to fans. Follow Mayenknecht at: twitter.com/TheSportMarket.
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