Sports video games could have 'remarkable' 2023


Tonight in Unpacks: The NPD Group’s rundown of 2022’s video game sales show a slight lift for sports games and Call of Duty’s continued dominance, with a hint of what could be in store for 2023.   

Other headlines: 

  • Shell picks up naming rights for Dynamo, Dash home venue
  • U.S. Soccer, Telemundo ink four-year media rights deal
  • Kings become first NBA team partner of CHEQ mobile concessions
  • Eagles sponsors line up postseason activation plans
  • Denny Hamlin to host podcast for Dirty Mo Media
  • Damar Hamlin’s marketing rep is ‘All Heart’

In this morning’s Buzzcast, SBJ’s Abe Madkour explores Jerry Jones’ revealing interview and asks whether the Commanders are close to a franchise sale. Also, the U.S. women’s soccer team kicks off a big year and the Deion impact is real in Colorado.

Sales of sports video games in 2022 outperformed levels from 2021, with the genre set up for a potentially stellar 2023, writes SBJ’s Jason Wilson.

“There was a slight increase in unit sales of sports games,” NPD Group analyst Mat Piscatella tells SBJ. “However, this doesn’t account for changes in (downloadable content/microtransactions) associated with these games, nor does it add value for players that engage with sports games via subscription services. FIFA was one of the better performers.” Piscatella also noted the release of Mario Strikers (soccer) and Nintendo Switch Sports helped sports sales.

Four sports title finished in the top 20 for consumer spend in 2022. Madden NFL 23 finished at No. 3 in consumer spend for the second consecutive year. FIFA 23 was at No. 7, MLB: The Show was at No. 10 and NBA 2K23 was No. 15.

Looking at the esports ecosystem, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, currently played within the Call of Duty League, was the best-selling game of 2022. Call of Duty has now been the best-selling video game franchise for 14 straight years. Call of Duty: Vanguard, the title played within CDL until Modern Warfare II launched Oct. 27, came in at No. 12.

What headwinds could sports titles face in 2023? “It’s all going to be about if new console hardware continues to see improvement and more readily available supply and whether or not we see the big games currently on the slate for 2023 stay in 2023 rather than get delayed,” Piscatella said. “If these two things happen, watch out: 2023 could be remarkable.”

U.S. Soccer reached a media rights agreement with NBC-owned Telemundo that will run through the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America, reports SBJ’s Alex Silverman. The deal comes just in time for the USWNT’s first match of 2023 against New Zealand tonight.

The four-year pact is U.S. Soccer’s first Spanish-language tie-up since its split from Soccer United Marketing, which previously sold the rights in a package with MLS matches. It also marks the end of U.S. Soccer’s 15-year run with TelevisaUnivision. The package features more than 20 men’s and women’s national team matches per year, including friendlies, the SheBelieves Cup and select Concacaf Nations League matches.

U.S. Soccer Chief Commercial Officer David Wright said the deal marks the first time the federation’s Spanish-language partner has committed to distributing every men’s and women’s national team match. Telemundo will spread those matches out across its flagship broadcast network, cable network Universo, Peacock and Telemundo’s digital platforms. Tonight’s women’s match will air on Universo and stream on Peacock and the Telemundo app.

Telemundo’s portfolio also includes Spanish-language rights to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, 2024 Olympic Games and 2026 Men’s World Cup.

The home of the Dynamo and NWSL Dash will be known as Shell Energy Stadium under a multiyear naming-rights agreement between the club and the oil and gas company, writes SBJ’s Alex Silverman.

The 21,000-seat soccer stadium, which opened in 2012, has previously been known as PNC Stadium, BBVA Stadium and BBVA Compass Stadium. Specific terms of the deal, which the club negotiated directly with Shell, were not disclosed. “We’re very pleased with the economics of the deal, and we believe we got very strong value representing what we believe the Dynamo and the Dash organization deserve,” Dynamo Chair Ted Segal told SBJ.

The Dynamo and Dash will erect new marquee signage at the stadium’s north end, and Shell Energy signage and branding will be seen throughout the venue. In addition, Shell will work with the club on a decarbonization initiative at the site, along with collaboration on community initiatives. Shell’s relationship with the Dynamo and Dash dates to last season, when the company became the club’s exclusive energy provider.

Rendering shows how Dynamo and Dash will erect new marquee signage at the stadium

Sponsors and licenses of the Eagles are finalizing activation plans behind Saturday night’s Divisional Round game versus the Giants, marking Philadelphia’s first home playoff game since 2020, reports SBJ’s Terry Lefton.

“It’s A Philly Thing” has been adopted by the team as a playoff theme. The tagline will be used in content from the team and emblazoned on a licensed apparel line of sweats, knit caps and T-shirts from New Era being sold exclusively at team-controlled brick-and-mortar retail and distributed to players.

Specific activations include:

  • Longtime team sponsor ACME Markets is presenting sponsor of the Divisional game. The grocer will have its logo on rally towels being given to fans at the game (as will Verizon).
  • Team sponsors staging pep rallies include Bud Light, ACME and Comcast.
  • Longtime sponsor Dietz & Watson is on board with the “Bird Dog,” a hot dog in a green bun.
  • MillerCoors is giving away tickets to its branded “Flight Deck” area at Lincoln Financial Field.
  • Pepsi is sponsoring a “Playoff Central” area on the Eagles app.

Tagline ‘It’s A Philly Thing’ will be used in content from the team and emblazoned on licensed apparel

The Kings are the first NBA team to partner with mobile ordering startup CHEQ, reports SBJ’s Andrew Cohen. Fans can use their smartphones to place food and beverage orders through CHEQ to be picked up at select concession stands inside Golden 1 Center starting Friday against the Thunder.

CHEQ’s ordering software will also be integrated into self-service express kiosks at four concession areas inside Golden 1 Center. The Kings will also let fans use CHEQ’s social-sharing feature, which enables users from anywhere in the world to pay for in-stadium concessions sent as a gift to their friends inside the arena.

CHEQ’s other partners include the Commanders, Titans, Dolphins, Marlins and University of Washington Athletics. The startup raised $8 million in September.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Dirty Mo Media signed Denny Hamlin to a deal that will see the three-time Daytona 500 winner host a weekly podcast during the NASCAR season, reports SBJ’s John Ourand.

Co-hosted by Hamlin and Jared Allen, “Actions Detrimental with Denny Hamlin” will debut Feb. 6 following the season-opening Busch Light Clash at L.A. Memorial Coliseum. New episodes will be released every Monday through the season. The podcast’s goal is to have guests and interact with fans.

Hamlin has earned a reputation as an outspoken driver who is not shy to talk about team ownership. He competes for Joe Gibbs Racing and co-owns and operates 23XI Racing with Michael Jordan. “Actions Detrimental” will be part of the Dirty Mo Media podcast network alongside “The Dale Jr. Download.” It will be distributed in partnership with Cadence 13.

In this week’s SBJ cover story, our Erik Bacharach sits down with Jaster Athletes CEO Jordon Rooney, whose marketing agency’s only pro client is Bills safety Damar Hamlin. He was also its first client; when Hamlin entered the NFL Draft in 2021, he approached Rooney about being his marketing rep. Rooney agreed, taking it one step further by making Hamlin an equity holder in Jaster upon its launch that year. “I told him, ‘We’re gonna go where you go. We’re gonna ride and die by you,’” Rooney said. So on Jan. 2, Rooney was the easy choice to serve as the family spokesperson. He has since done more than 50 interviews.

More in this week’s issue:

  • SiriusXM and the NHL reached a multiyear extension to their rights deal that will see the satellite radio operator carry all NHL games in the U.S. and Canada through the 2028-29 season, notes SBJ’s John Ourand.
  • St. Louis-based Stifel Financial expanded its relationship with U.S. Ski & Snowboard, acquiring naming rights to three FIS Ski World Cup events, agreeing to support increased event prize purses and becoming title sponsor of a series of awards, reports SBJ’s Chris Smith.
  • MGM Resorts International is hosting “The Slam: Nadal vs. Alcaraz” tennis exhibition match on March 5 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, writes SBJ’s Bret McCormick.
  • Tennis Australia has launched AO Adventure, a new virtual gaming world in Roblox where users can play and wear special outfits in a virtual Melbourne Park, writes SBJ’s Andrew Cohen.
  • “House Party,” the remake of the ’90s film that was produced by LeBron James and Maverick Carter with a “minimal marketing campaign,” has “turned out to be a flop,” notes Cinema Blend. Among the sports personalities making cameos were Mark Cuban, Odell Beckham Jr., Tristan Thompson and Anthony Davis.

  • FloSports reached a multi-fight, seven-figure deal with Gordon Ryan, the world’s top submission grappler, to compete in the streaming outlet’s Who’s Number One (WNO) Series. FloGrappling created the no-gi jiu jitsu event series in 2020.
  • ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith appeared on ABC’s “GMA” this morning to promote his new memoir, “Straight Shooter,” saying he “never wanted to be limited to just sports” in his career. Smith also discussed how former ESPN President George Bodenheimer opened the door for him at the network.


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