Tom Mayenknecht: The business of sport

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The Lionel Messi effect continues to shape the early season tongue-wagging in Major League Soccer. There isn’t a single market in MLS where a visit from Messi and Inter-Miami CF isn’t the hottest ticket of the year. The impact on the business of soccer in North America has been palpable on both sides of the border, with significant increases in season ticket sales, individual tickets and new sponsorship activations. On the field, Inter-Miami is the newest stalking horse in MLS, with a record of 2-1-0 and seven points of a possible nine. Miami’s goal differential is sublime: eight goals for and just one against.

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In the Premiership, Liverpool continues to flex its international marketing muscle, this week unveiling a new line of apparel inspired by LeBron James, who is a co-owner of the club operated by Fenway Sports Group — also owners of the Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball and the slumping Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL. The James-Liverpool merchandising collaboration reflects not only the global side of sport entrepreneurship but the widening range of audiences looking for something more than typical jersey fare.

caitlin clark
Guard Caitlin Clark of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Women’s basketball continues to play in a robust bull market, with Caitlin Clark phenomenon in women’s college basketball. Photo by Matthew Holst /Getty Images

And on the subject of global audiences, the Canadian share of TV viewers and streamers who tuned into Super Bowl LVIII last month is second to none outside of the American viewership of 123.7 million. As reported last month, average Super Bowl television audiences in Canada crossed the 10 million threshold, an increase of 16 per cent year-over-year. What is impossible to dispute is how Canadian football demographics have grown to second-place globally behind only the U.S. Mexico, a country of 126.7 million, drew average national viewership of 8.7 million. Germany scored 1.9 million out of a population of 83.2 million while Australia saw an average of 1.2 million watch in a country of 25.69 million. One would expect that the NFL, which has been focused largely on international games in the U.K., Germany and Mexico, will soon add Canada to Brazil and Spain as countries hosting the four-down football juggernaut.

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Meanwhile, women’s basketball continues to play in a robust bull market, whether it’s the Caitlin Clark phenomenon in women’s college basketball, interest in her upcoming draft into the WNBA or the fact that the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA have become the first franchise in the league to sell out of its allotment of season tickets. The Aces are owned by majority partner Mark Davis, who also owns the Las Vegas Raiders, with Tom Brady in as a minority partner in that WNBA ownership group.

Yet there’s been nothing hotter in the business of sport this week than the continued rise of video streaming. Amazon Prime is now a source of New York Yankees game content — 21 games this coming season — while Netflix is ramping up its own sports content, from rights pitches to special events such as the July 20 boxing match between Jake Paul and 57-year-old Mike Tyson. That one will be held at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys and the largest sports venue in North America, and will certainly command the curiosity factor for subscribers of Netflix.


The Pittsburgh Penguins — typically one of the best-run and most consistent franchises year in, year out in the NHL — appear to be in chaos on and off the ice and careening into what appears to be a rebuild, one that puts into question the futures of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Is this the end of an era that has largely defined the NHL since 2005?

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