Rachel Maddow Investigates The Curse Of The Nike Soccer Ad

What do Ronaldinho, Didier Drogba, Fabio Cannavaro, Franck Ribery, Landon Donovan, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Roger Federer, and Homer Simpson have in common? Yes, they are all stars of Nike’s “Write the Future” ad campaign and, with the exception of Homer Simpson, recently defeated athletes. Rumors of a sports curse around the ads are growing, and Rachel Maddow believes them.

Maddow took a detailed look at the soccer players’ individual failures– from Ronaldinho’s inability to make the Brazilian team after starring in the ad to Ribery’s team, the French national team, breaking out into near-civil war to Ronaldo’s uncharacteristically passive play. Then there’s Federer, who isn’t even a soccer player (though he almost was!), who made an uncharacteristic early exit at Wimbledon this week against the twelfth-ranked Tomas Berdych. In sum, the only people in the ad who have yet to be affected by the curse are three Spanish players are Homer Simpson.

The truth is, several of these players– Rooney, Ribery, and Cannavaro in particular– were simply on teams that grossly underperformed this years for various reasons. And the World Cup is close enough to being over that it makes sense most of the players would be out by now. But Roger Federer losing? At Wimbledon? Forgive us all if we suspect the hand of the supernatural intervening in this.

Watch Maddow explain the curse below:

Stats: Five Percent Of English Soccer Viewers Watched Match Online

England and Slovenia football players

Let’s hope broadcasters have got their CDNs in order - this summer’s World Cup is proving a genuine watershed for live online TV streaming. Look at these stats…

BBC.co.uk served a peak of 800,000 concurrent live streams during yesterday’s England-Slovenia match; Wimbledon was also streaming, but the BBC said the “vast majority” of viewers watched soccer.

—That’s 5.5 percent of the match’s peak BBC One TV audience of 14.3 million (in other words, about five percent of all the BBC’s England match views yesterday were online, not including the BBC HD channel).

—It blows away the BBC’s previous record, which it set only this Monday, of 355,000 streams of World Cup, Wimbledon and Budget coverage.

—And it’s only just shy of views YouTube’s U2 concert and Obama’s inauguration speech pulled, as James Cridland points out.

—Monday’s record had eclipsed the BBC’s previous peak of 270,000 live streams during last year’s Murray-Roddick match at Wimbledon.

Several factors are at work here…

—General consumer adoption of broadband has grown healthily.

—All of the content was taking place during daytime at UK offices, where people have internet on tap.

—It’s summer and it’s sunny; people have little inclination to work.

—People love live sport.

—No longer just a TV operator, the BBC offers many choices of match to watch - though England was the biggest draw, tennis fans also had a choice of matches to watch on BBC.co.uk.

In fact, online TV viewing is coming in to its own. If the BBC is unable to carry Formula 1 qualifying in its entirety, for whatever reason, on TV on any given Saturday, rather than drop the production it goes ahead anyway, online, satisfying the sport’s loyal following - very smart.

ITV.com claimed an average 130,000 views per match during the World Cup’s opening week, though the two England games it has carried so far were after office hours, when people are back at their TVs.

But all this growth comes with bandwidth challenges…

—UK internet traffic during the game was 55 percent up from a normal Wednesday, ISP Demon says (via Guardian.co.uk).

—Though business ISP easyNet Connect says traffic from offices was 226 percent up - so it’s clear how much UK workplace productivity would have dipped yesterday).

Many ITV.com users complained they were unable to connect last week, and some UK users on Wednesday had problems viewing the USA-Algeria game, which the BBC was streaming online at the same time as England-Slovenia, which streamed just fine.

The BBC has contracts with Level3, Akamai (NSDQ: AKAM) and Limelight (NSDQ: LLNW) for content delivery network services.

Akamai figures from the top 100 news sites in its network show how, after both the England and USA games ended on Wednesday, “traffic spiked to 11.2 million visitors per minute, which moves the event past the 2008 presidential election as the second highest traffic spike of all-time”, Mashable observes.

If this trend continues, the importance of CDNs will only increase.


Yahoo’s Winning The World Cup Contest In U.S.

Yahoo Sports World Cup

Over a third of visitors to the leading World Cup-related sites in the U.S. are going to Yahoo’s site, according to Hitwise, which monitors 10 million U.S. web users.

Here are its numbers on a self-selected list of 15 such sites…

Two interesting observations…
1) The second most popular site is one of the few that stream live matches for free.
2) The official tournament site is besting media operators like ESPN (NYSE: DIS), Foxsports and SI.com (and users are spending more time on Fifa.com than anywhere else).

Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) piled on 69 percent more visits in the tournament’s opening week, but ESPN3 and Foxsports increased their share more than others, writes Hitwise analyst Heather Dougherty.

Yahoo signed David Beckham for a marketing campaign in which he was to provide content for the site, but nothing discernible has yet happened and the deal, which sees Beckham’s image used in a high-profile Yahoo Sports ad campaign, looks more like a marketing exercise.

In the UK, leading commercial broadcaster ITV said it clocked an average 130,000 viewers for each of the World Cup games it streamed on ITV.com last week.


London 2012 Olympics Plans To Profit Online

London 2012 Olympics

London 2012 Olympics organisers aim to make money from their online operations, including capitalising on a domestic commercial straitjacket around the host broadcaster.

“It’s part of my department’s mission to be revenue-generating and deliver positive cashflow,” new media head Alex Balfour told the Social Media Influence conference in London on Tuesday. “There’s a huge, huge sponsorship opportunity.

At previous Olympics, broadcasters have keenly sought to profit from their rightsholder status by running premium advertising at home, Balfour said. “But the BBC doesn’t and that’s pretty much unique. For us, it’s an exceptional opportunity. We have 35-plus sponsors at the moment and there’s no way for them to activate (on UK TV) at all. That’s an opportunity for us to drive revenue.

“We’ll do it through straightforward sales but bring social media in as well.” Sponsorship opportunities could include around a results service on the games’ official website.

Although the BBC will be carrying the Olympics in the UK, Channel 4’s carriage of the Paralympics will afford commercial opportunities, Balfour said.

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) has targeted having a £2 billion budget from private sources, on top of its £9 billion in public funds, though Balfour wouldn’t disclose his budget for his digital department, which numbers a team of six, supported by a technical team.


World Cup vs Olympics: How The Next Big Tournament’s Shaping Up Online

Athletes running up hill

“It’s an appropriate time to compare what we’re doing against the World Cup,”  Alex Balfour, the new media head of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games said, presenting these stats to the Social Media Influence conference in London on Tuesday…

—Competing nations: World Cup: 32 | Olympics: 205
—Athletes: World Cup: 736 | Olympics: 15,000
—Media: 20,000
—Tickets: 9 million
—Venues: World Cup: 12 | Olympics: 170+ venues

“The size of what we’re doing is absolutely enormous,” Balfour said. “Day by day, I get terrified by numbers about the range of things we’re doing. The scale is just absolutely huge.” The last, winter Olympics give an indication…

Vancouver2010.com stats from Balfour…
—291 million visits (Beijing 2008: 105 million)
—83 million uniques (Beijing 2008: 70 million - compared with Yahoo’s 32 million, NBC.com’s 20 million)
—Over 50 percent of all Canadians visited the site
—8.7 million visits to mobile site, 1.25 app downloads
—1.2 million Facebook fans (Beijing 2008: 320,000)
—“Every post they put on Facebook attracted about 100,000 comments.”

But it looks like Vancouver and Beijing’s online audience will pale against London2012.com. “London is already tracking x2 Vancouver traffic at same stage and planning for 10 billion visits,” Balfour’s slides said. “We’re aiming to sign up 5m+ to our databases.”

LOCOG is charged with delivering the games themselves for the International Olympics Committee. Online, it has a varied, and changing, remit - including a London2012.com pre-event site, building audience engagement and UK sports participation ahead of the games and, during the games, publishing results on its own site and out on to third parties including social networks.

At the moment, it’s using Twitter to encourage deep-link click-throughs to London2012.com pages, Facebook for more static, “call-and-response” excitement building and MyLondon2012.com to collect user-generated messages that could be re-published during the games - some, perhaps, beamed on to athletic venues.

Blutooth enabled display boards at London venues will also be receive and re-publish attendees’ messages. “People can share that with us and then we can re-share it in physical envionrments,” Balfour said. “There’s exciting potential to bring that in to the ceremonies as well.”

“Our major learning from the Vancouver games is that social media has to be FUN. People use it in their procrastination time, downtime, fun time. We produce endless photos of construction progress ... some of them quite inspirational and exciting ... however, when we put updates on our Facebook page, we get complaints. ‘show us something cool’.”

Asked whether third-party services - including mobile location sharers, which could overlay their own messages on to venues in cyberspace - pose a threat to LOCOG’s necessity to protect the investment of official sponsors, Balfour said: “It’s perfectly possible, should we wish to do so, around infrastructure we control, that we can restrict sites from appearing within our territories.”

But he later clarified to me that this possibility would apply in the event of bandwidth problems rather than as a kind of commercial censorship: “There is the potential to, if we are operating a WiFi infratructure, to decrease bottlenecks to priortise traffic to our sites - but it wouldn’t be for any other reason other than to make it more efficient. Many people’s expectation right now is that they can’t (even) make a phone call at a sports event.”

LOCOG is undertaking a big exercise with BT (NYSE: BT) and others to secure comms infrastructure for the games.


Bleacher Report Taps Ex-Yahoo/Fox Sports Exec Brian Grey As CEO

Brian Grey

Former Fox Sports Interactive exec Brian Grey has left venture firm Polaris Venture Partners to take on the CEO post at sports content site Bleacher Report. Grey starts in July and be based out of the company’s San Francisco offices. Bleacher Report partners with CBSSports.com and produces co-branded online local editions in four of Hearst Newspapers’ markets: San Francisco Chronicle’s SFGate.com, Houston Chronicle’s Chron.com, San Antonio Express-News’ MySanAntonio.com and SeattlePI.com.

Before arriving at Fox in 2005, Grey was Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) Sports GM. He had been at Yahoo since 2001. In between, he held executive posts at Shutterfly, where he was vp-business development, as well as Netscape and Nike. Still, his most interesting job—and something not every digital sports exec can claim—Grey briefly scouted for the Chicago White Sox in the mid-1990s. Release

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Fox, Yahoo Sports Vet Brian Grey to Run Sports Start-Up Bleacher Report

Brian Grey used to run big sports sites for really big portals, first at Yahoo (YHOO), then at News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox Sports. Now he’s going to do the same thing at a start-up: He’s leaving an entrepreneur-in-residence perch at Polaris Venture Partners to run Bleacher Report, a San Francisco-based sports network.

Bleacher Report is a two-year old company roughly similar to the better-known SB Nation. The start-up employs lots of writers and stringers to produce lots of local content, claiming it is now churning out more than 500 stories a day.

The company is trying to make money by selling ads on its core site, which Quantcast says draws eight million monthly uniques. And it’s doing syndication deals with the likes of USAToday.com and some of Hearst’s newspapers; last I heard, it was also trying to get a deal with Tribune’s Los Angeles Times.

Bleacher Report has raised $8 million in two rounds; investments include Series A financing completed in February 2008 from Hillsven Capital, Gordon Crawford, SoftTech VC and, sort-of oddly, Vimeo founder Jakob Lodwick.