Contributed by Todd San Jule, VP of Strategy and Sports Innovation Lab
It’s a New Year, and as we look to the next 12 months we see three primary themes that will define the sports industry in the US in 2021:
Theme #1: The Surge of Cashless Venues
Theme #2: US Sports Betting Boom
Theme #3: The Emergence of Name Image Likeness (NIL)
The Surge of Cashless Venues
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and the suspension of most spectator sports in March 2020, there were just six professional venues that were 100% cashless. Just nine months later that number has grown to approximately 50 venues across five professional leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS), based on data that was compiled by Sports Innovation Lab (SIL). The number of cashless venues seems to be growing every week, as teams address safety concerns and fan anxiety by adding new touchless payment options. This new Touchless Fan Journey is made possible through emerging technology from companies such as Venuetize, a leading mobile technology and advanced e-commerce platform for the sports, hospitality, and entertainment industries.
From its proprietary database, SIL broke up 130 venues into five groups:
- Fully Cashless Pre-Pandemic (5%) - These are the very few venues that made the switch to totally cashless pre-pandemic. They explicitly say on their website that they do not accept cash, and publicly announced this before March of 2020
- Requiring Cashless Post-Pandemic (34%) - Venues who are not allowing fans that return to stadiums to use cash. This decision comes in conjunction with numerous other health protocols, such as mobile ticketing, social distancing, mask requirements, etc.
- Leaning Into Cashless, No Commitment (28%) - Venues that have dabbled with cashless kiosks, cashless merchandise, or some form of part cashless, but are still not ready to make the full switch
- Credit/Debit, Cash, Mobile Pay (25%) - Venues that still rely on cash, and may have recently adopted POS systems with contactless payment tech at some of their kiosks
- No Info (8%) - These venues did not have enough information publicly available to make a classification
US Sports Betting Boom
You might not have been able to attend your favorite team's home game in 2020, but chances are you could bet on it. As of the end of the year, 25 states plus the District of Columbia had legalized sports betting, leading to astronomical wagering numbers. In November alone, approximately $3.5 billion was legally wagered on sports events in the US, with more than 80% of those bets being placed on a mobile device.
The Top 5 Sports Betting states in November (pending official numbers from Illinois which was 4th largest in October) according to Legal Sports Report were:
- New Jersey - $931 million
- Nevada - $609 million
- Pennsylvania - $492 million
- Indiana - $251 million
- Colorado - $231 million
Surprisingly, coming in the 6th spot was Tennessee, which only launched on Nov 1 and set a new record for the first month of legal wagering in a state. Bigger things are in store in 2021. Early this year, mobile sports betting should go live in Michigan and Virginia, with Maryland, Louisiana and South Dakota to launch in the months ahead. The big wildcard is New York, where sports betting is legal at a handful of upstate casinos but mobile sports betting is currently prohibited. That could change in 2021 if government passes legislation, and if it does, New York could see several billion dollars in annual handle and several hundred million in tax revenues. Connecticut and Ohio are two other states that could cross the finish line in 2021.
The Emergence of Name Image Likeness (NIL)
Later this year the NCAA is expected to allow college athletes to start earning money using their name, image and likeness (NIL). What this exactly looks like and how much money the NCAA's nearly half a million student-athletes can make is still up in the air. In addition to updated NCAA bylaws expected later this month, there are multiple federal and state bills in pending legislation, each with its different set of rules.
Regardless of which bills cross the finish line, however, there is already a declared winner, and that is the college athlete. For the first time ever, whether you play sports at Colorado or Columbia, Washington or Wheaton, you will be able to profit from your name, your image and your likeness.
Although a lot of attention has been placed on how much money the big-name football players will make, the highest upside may be for women college athletes. Although they are not as well-known as the Trevor Lawrences and Justin Fields of the NCAA landscape, many of these female athletes have large social media followings that they should be able to monetize. Would it surprise you that the Cavinder twins (Hanna and Haley) that play basketball at Fresno State have more than 2.5 million followers on TikTok and more than 50,000 subscribers on YouTube? Ka-ching!
The folks at Sports Innovation Lab (SIL) looked at the potential earnings of several college athletes across multiple sports, and then compared that to the highest salary they could make as a professional. The results are astounding. Haley Cruse, for example, a softball player at Oregon, could make an estimated $117,000 annually posting on her social media channels where she has nearly 335,000 followers across Instagram and Twitter. This is nearly 6 times what she could make in the National Pro Fastpitch League where the top salary is $20,000/year.
The chart above shows the earnings potential of other female collegiate athletes, which was compiled by SIL using earnings data provided by OpenDorse and INFLCR (as published in Axios, FiveThirtyEight and CBSSports.com). OpenDorse and INFLCR are a couple of the new companies emerging in the NIL space, along with other headliners such as the Perpetual Sports Network, a Venuetize client that will be launching a premium Content Hub in 2021.
This new and unique partnership between Venuetize and Perpetual Sports Network will leverage Venuetize's extensive experience in mobile and e-commerce with the launch of the Content Hub that will host unique athlete content within a subscriber channel. On the first day that an athlete signs with Perpetual Sports Network, the Perpetual Sports Network’s Content Studio will kick off a content plan that includes robust video storytelling produced by its team of action sports and documentary experts, long-form journalism stories that are unique to each athlete, and social-media content that will share the collegiate experience of each athlete with an audience.
The goal is to have new NIL legislation adopted before the 2021-22 academic year. And before the start of the 2021 football and women’s soccer seasons, when last year’s headliner Sarah Fuller - who made history by kicking extra points for Vanderbilt last fall - will be back on the soccer field, this time as a graduate transfer at North Texas. Sarah has approximately 245,000 social media followers, which could be worth more than $150,000 annually.
Stay tuned for more Venuetize Insights in 2021!