SBJ Unpacks: F1, AmEx start the engines for Vegas Grand Prix – Sports Business Journal

Tonight in Unpacks: Ticket sales are underway for the inaugural F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix, and early returns reflect pent-up demand for the 2023 event.

Other headlines:
In today’s Morning Buzzcast, Abe Madkour examines MLB nearing $11 billion in revenue; World Series games now up against NFL; and what’s next for the Pac-12?
The F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix put its first batch of tickets for the inaugural 2023 race on sale today just to American Express card members and sold out within an hour, writes SBJ’s Adam Stern.
It was the latest move by AmEx to give its card members special perks around sports events, though neither F1, AmEx or the Vegas Grand Prix will comment yet on whether this is a one-off with AmEx for the pre-sale, or the first aspect of a broader new sponsorship. Regardless, AmEx says there were select general-admission three-day tickets that went on sale today for $500, though users on social media disputed that and claimed they had the opportunity to buy a GA pass.
The other sections that went on sale today were reserved seats for the grandstand at the MSG Sphere ($2,000), East Harmon grandstand ($2,500) and North Koval hospitality ($8,000). All the tickets are for three days and include at least free food and non-alcoholic drinks (hospitality sections are also expected to include alcohol). F1 will put another batch of tickets on sale tomorrow for AmEx members, a third batch available on Thursday to non-AmEx members who signed up for a priority list, and then on Saturday it will open ticket sales to the public.
Vegas GP CEO Renee Wilm told SBJ at COTA two weeks ago, “Our demand is through the roof. We’re very fortunate to have experienced such great demand. We will have an on-sale date in the near term, but it won’t be a massive amount of tickets because we’re so heavily pre-subscribed.” Wilm was referring not just to casinos who have bought up large amounts of tickets but also sponsors and F1 teams. MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle had previously revealed that his company was planning to buy $25 million in tickets to package with hotel room offerings.
Wasserman revealed an investment from Providence Equity Partners. The private equity firm’s funding will be used to provide the agency with capital to pursue growth initiatives and to fully redeem RedBird Capital Partners and Madrone Capital Partners, who are exiting as investors. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Wasserman Founder, Chair & CEO Casey Wasserman will continue to retain a controlling ownership stake. RedBird in the fall of 2020 had acquired around a 30-40% stake in Wasserman. Madrone, a family office tied to the Walton family, which now has majority control of the Broncos, was the lone PE firm investing in Wasserman prior to RedBird’s involvement.

Founded in 2002, Wasserman has clients and partnerships across sports, music, brands and properties, operating across six continents, 23 countries and more than 40 cities. Its core competencies include sports and music talent representation, along with marketing. Recent initiatives include the launch of Wasserman Music and the acquisition of The Montag Group.
Fox’s viewership for the PhilliesAstros World Series continues trending ahead of Braves-Astros last year through two games, notes SBJ’s Austin Karp.
Saturday night’s Game 2 delivered 10.8 million viewers, up 5% from 10.3 million for Game 2 last year, which aired on a Wednesday night. Game 2 this year is up sharply from 9.1 million for DodgersRays on Wednesday night in 2020, which had to compete with an abnormally loaded fall sports calendar. Phillies-Astros Game 2 is down 10% from Nationals-Astros Game 2 in 2019.
Saturday’s contest peaked at 12.4 million viewers from 10:45-11pm ET. Philadelphia led all markets with a 23.5 local rating, followed by Houston‘s 21.6. After two games, the World Series is averaging 11.2 million viewers on Fox, up 4% from last year at the same point.
Also on Saturday night, the NWSL drew its best TV audience in its 10-year history, as the Portland Thorns’ win over the K.C. Current delivered 915,000 viewers on CBS. That figure is up 74% from last year, when CBS drew 525,000 viewers for the Washington SpiritChicago Red Stars game on a Saturday afternoon in late November. K.C. led all markets on Saturday night, followed by Portland, Knoxville, New Orleans and Birmingham.
The NWSL drew the record figure amid some heavy primetime sports competition, including World Series Game 2, Michigan StateMichigan football on ABC (5.6 million) and KentuckyTennessee on ESPN (4 million).
After two games, the World Series is averaging 11.2 million viewers on Fox, up 4% from last year
The Minnesota Twins Accelerator by Techstars has selected its second cohort of 10 sports and entertainment startups to continue developing their products in the Twin Cities for the next three months through Demo Day on Feb. 15, 2023, notes SportTechie’s Joe Lemire.
The 10 chosen companies for the accelerator hail from seven states and three countries, including the U.K. and Nigeria. Each of the first two cohorts have featured six founders from historically marginalized groups. Products from two of the startups in the first batch, AWSM Sauce and Edge Sound Research, were used at Target Field during the 2022 MLB season. The team launched the accelerator program in 2021.
The second annual accelerator class includes:
In-N-Out Burger has signed its largest deal in sports yet with NHRA and the Pomona Dragstrip, reports SBJ’s Adam Stern. The long-term deal will see In-N-Out become title sponsor of the NHRA Finals race and the naming rights sponsor of the Pomona Dragstrip beginning with the 2023 NHRA Camping World Series season.
In-N-Out will be replacing Auto Club as naming rights sponsor of the venue. The agreement was negotiated directly between the NHRA and In-N-Out without the use of agencies. Activation plans are still being drawn up, but a major focus will be on celebrating the burger chain’s 75th anniversary next year, including a festival next October at the track. In-N-Out also is working to have its food sold on site at what will now be named the In-N-Out Pomona Dragstrip.
In-N-Out has done some NHRA team sponsorships before, putting its brand logo on the cars of a handful of drivers like Melanie Troxel in 1999. It also does some local sports advertising in the L.A. market on radio around pro sports teams, but Exec VP & COO Denny Warnick said, “We don’t do too much sports marketing.” Warnick said that this new naming rights agreement “can easily go on for over the next decade.”
NHRA is extending its sanction of the dragstrip through 2033, which allows for In-N-Out to have a long-term deal
New Professional Tennis Players Association Executive Director Ahmad Nassar plans to take formal steps to determine if tennis players are employees or independent contractors, writes SBJ’s Liz Mullen. Tennis pros have long been classified as independent contractors, and as such cannot unionize or engage in strikes or collective bargaining.
Nassar, who was named the first executive director of the PTPA in August, said that based on his understanding, the independent contractor designation has never been challenged: “That structure that exists right now has not been stress tested.” Nassar plans to hire legal counsel to look into the matter. He said it is something that should be settled by the PTPA as it starts out on its mission of improving tennis players’ lives.
Nassar also currently serves as CEO of the newly launched Winners Alliance, which aims to emulate OneTeam Partners’ success for tennis players, starting with the establishment of a group licensing program for video games, trading cards and related areas. He was the founding CEO of OneTeam, which he announced he was leaving in June.
In this week’s SBJ Media, John Ourand looks at: 
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