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Ten Things To Know As Golf Returns To Olympics After 112-Year Absence

The Summer Olympics are underway in Rio de Janeiro, where medals will be awarded in 42 disciplines over the next three weeks. Of those sports, two are new to the schedule for 2016: rugby sevens and golf.

Golf was previously a part of the Olympics in 1900 and 1904, but it’s been out of the mix for more than a century. In 1904, George Lyon claimed the gold for Canada at the St. Louis Games after five straight days of 36-hole match play competition.


Now 112 years later, here are 10 of the most important things to know as golf makes its Olympic return in Brazil:

1 – Two gold medals will be awarded, in the men’s and women’s individual competitions. Both the men and women will play a 72-hole individual stroke play format, so it’s not much different than the week-to-week grind of the PGA and LPGA tours. Matt Kuchar is one of four U.S. players in the men’s field, but just one week out of Rio even he didn’t know what the format was, mistakenly believing there was a two-man team competition.

2 – Unlike a regular professional tour event, the Olympic field is limited to 60 players in both the men’s and women’s tournaments. The U.S. has four players in the men’s competition because that’s the maximum number of qualifiers per country provided they’re in the top-15 of the world rankings. Outside the top 15, a maximum of two players per country could qualify.

3 – The men’s tournament is held Aug. 11-14, with the women’s event set for the following week Aug. 18-21. The Golf Channel will broadcast the men’s tournament from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET from Thursday through Saturday and on Sunday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.


4 – The Olympic course was built specifically for the Summer Games, constructed on a former sand quarry along saltwater marshes. It was designed by Gil Hanse, who was selected from a group of eight architects to build the 18-hole layout at the Marapendi Natural Reserve. The venue, which has the feel of some of Australia’s classic Sandbelt courses, was landscaped as part of an environmental recovery project and will be open to the public after the Olympic Games. It’s also home to the world’s largest rodent — the capybara — as well as a species of ground-nesting owl, caimans, boa constrictors, monkeys and three-toed sloths.

5 – The top four men in the world rankings aren’t in the field. Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy all pulled out over concerns about the mosquito-born Zika virus, poor security or a full competition schedule. In all, 21 eligible male golfers dropped out, with other top names including Adam Scott, Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, Hideki Matsuyama and Charl Schwartzel. Only six eligible players on the women’s side withdrew, with Lee-Anne Pace the highest seed (39).


6 – Henrik Stenson of Sweden is the top player in the men’s field, sitting fifth in the world ranking after his victory at the British Open. Bubba Watson (6) is next, followed by American teammate Rickie Fowler (7) and No. 9 Danny Willett of Britain, this year’s Masters champion. On the women’s side, Lydia Ko of New Zealand is the top contender, followed by Brooke Henderson of Canada, Inbee Park of South Korea, and Lexi Thompson of the U.S. The host nation’s lone representative is Adilson da Silva, a professional who mostly plays on the second-tier Asian and Sunshine tours. In all, 18 of the 60 men’s players are members of the PGA Tour.

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7 – The men’s competition features 34 nations, from Argentina to Venezuela. Of those 23 have two competitors, while 10 countries have one Olympic participant. (The U.S. leads the way with four: Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar) The women’s tournament also has players from 34 nations. South Korea has the best representation, with four players, followed by the U.S. with three. Twenty-three countries have two female Olympians.

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8 – The American team may have the most players, but the U.S. isn’t the favorite to strike gold in Brazil. The favorite coming in is Stenson, who has 9-2 odds of following up his win at the season’s final major championship with Olympic glory. Sergio Garcia of Spain is the second pick at 7-1, according to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. Watson, Fowler, and England’s Justin Rose all have 12-1 odds of winning the men’s individual title.

9 – The Olympic course is a par-71 and will play at a length of 7,128 yards for the men and 6,245 yards for the women. The course concludes with a short par-3 17th hole (133 yards) and then a 571-yard par-5 18th hole. If there’s a tie among any of the top three positions (gold, silver or bronze), there will be a three-hole playoff to determine the medal winner.


10 – Golf was reintroduced to the Olympics because of its global expansion and popularity. It’s not back permanently, though, as the International Olympic Committee only voted to reinstate golf through the 2020 Games in Tokyo — at least for now. After Rio, the IOC will re-assess golf’s return and vote on whether to keep the sport as part of the Olympic program for 2024 and beyond.

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FC Barcelona Ranks As The Top Sports Team On Social Media

I cover sports business with rare dip in education & local economies

The National Football League is the richest sports league in the world with 27 NFL teams.

The NFL’s 32 teams have a combined 141 million followers on social media across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The tally lags Spanish soccer powerhouses Barcelona and Real Madrid, who on their own command 148 million and 146 million followers respectively. Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barca’s Lionel Messi have the two biggest individual followings in sports with 215 million and 131 million as of last month.

A big following on social media is not everything though for sports teams. It is important to have an engaged audience to help expand the team’s brand and ultimately to monetize that audience. To see which sports teams were doing the best job on social media, we turned to Hookit, which tracks sponsorship value in social and digital media.


Hookit examined the social media accounts of the teams in every major sports league to gauge followings, interactions (likes, shares, comments or retweets) and “earned media value.” The media value is based on sponsored promotions via hashtags and mentions and not image recognition. “Total follower numbers can be impressive, but the engagement is what drives the value coupled with the quality of ‘promoted’ posts,” says Hookit co-founder Scott Tilton.

We combined the ranks of teams in these three categories to determine the top sports teams on social media below. The stats cover June 2015 through June 2016. Soccer dominates the action with 11 of the top 20 teams. Barcelona ranked first in all three categories.

1. Barcelona


Followers: 145 million

Interactions: 1.45 billion

Media value: $25.3 million

2. Real Madrid

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Followers: 141 million

Interactions: 601 million

Media value: $17.2 million

3. Manchester United

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Followers: 88.4 million

Interactions: 522 million

Media value: $12.1 million

4. Arsenal

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Followers: 50.6 million

Interactions: 239 million

Media value: $9.2 million

5. Chelsea

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Followers: 59.5 million

Interactions: 181 million

Media value: $6.1 million

6. Bayern Munich

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Followers: 46.8 million

Interactions: 204 million

Media value: $2.5 million

7. Los Angeles Lakers

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Followers: 29.4 million

Interactions: 106 million

Media value: $11 million

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8. Golden State Warriors

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Followers: 13.6 million

Interactions: 293 million

Media value: $3.3 million

9. Manchester City

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Followers: 27.5 million

Interactions: 107 million

Media value: $5.8 million

10. Cleveland Cavaliers

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Followers: 9.5 million

Interactions: 102 million

Media value: $12.5 million

11. Juventus

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Followers: 30.3 million

Interactions: 156 million

Media value: $2 million

12. Liverpool

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Followers: 37.3 million

Interactions: 146 million

Media value: $1.6 million

13. New England Patriots

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Followers: 10.9 million

Interactions: 88.4 million

Media value: $4.3 million

14. Borussia Dortmund

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Followers: 18.8 million

Interactions: 91.4 million

Media value: $1.9 million

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15. Paris Saint-Germain

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Followers: 32.7 million

Interactions: 67.2 million

Media value: $1.3 million

16. Denver Broncos

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Followers: 7.3 million

Interactions: 84.5 million

Media value: $2.3 million

17. Dallas Cowboys

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Followers: 11.7 million

Interactions: 61.1 million

Media value: $2.5 million

18. San Antonio Spurs

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Followers: 9.3 million

Interactions: 80.3 million

Media value: $1.7 million

19. Carolina Panthers

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Followers: 5.1 million

Interactions: 80.3 million

Media value: $1.7 million

20. Seattle Seahawks

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Followers: 7 million

Interactions: 66.7 million

Media value: $2.7 million

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Tech Is Advancing Outdoor Sports In The New Heartland

As summer winds down, now is the perfect time for brands to join their New Heartland consumers outdoors in the woods or on the lake.  Made up of 60% of U.S. consumers, the New Heartland is a powerful cultural segment defined by a shared set of core values: faith (not religion), community and family.  This segment is 32% more likely to find outdoor activities effective as an advertising element than their coastal counterparts. The best ways to reach this massive and extremely loyal audience include aligning with: sports, music, food, tech, fashion and you guessed it, outdoors activities such as hunting and fishing.


Hunting is more than just a hobby or pastime; for many, it defines who they are and dominates their lifestyle.  It creates lifelong memories and passed-down traditions. New Heartlander’s expect brands to understand the nuances and show appreciation for the many variations of the sport. For example, did you know that there are well over 50 types of camo? A closet staple for New Heartlanders who hunt. With 68% having household incomes of $50,000+, hunters (10% of which are women) spend $33 billion annually on gear and trips.  If hunting were a company, the amount spent by sportsmen to support their hunting activities would place it number 73 on the Fortune 500 list.


Not to be outdone by hunters, anglers spend over $45 billion annually on gear and trips. As a matter of fact, more Americans fish than play golf.  Brands need to get out and join them. If you think that men are the only ones who spend their weekends on the water, think again – 1 in every 4 anglers is a woman! My favorite stat says 21% of adults in Minnesota consider themselves anglers…1 in 5!



Outdoor sports enthusiasts are embracing technology advances – at all costs – as part of a never-ending quest for an edge. They stay informed on the latest technology advances in all facets of their hunting and fishing passions via social media, message boards, blogs and word of mouth.

There has been tremendous innovation to outdoor technology. It lets outdoor fanatics take their game to the next level – from wireless fish finders to ‘smart’ shooting glasses that provide more precise targeting and built in cameras for content capture.   Drones are adapted to spy the best fishing locations and RC technology enables more realistic turkey decoys.  Brands can be equally as embracing of technology here, and not rely on traditional imagery of these sports.



Content capture is huge for outdoor enthusiasts.  There are a multitude of social media sites, like Tag N Brag, dedicated to letting hunters and fishermen post their big catch or kill with on-line contests supplementing traditional tournaments.

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Fish mortality in conventional bass tournament circuits is alarmingly high. Mishandling and oxygen deprivation result in dead fish at the weigh-in scales.  Outdoor enthusiasts are dedicated to preserving and protecting the game they hunt. Outdoor lifestyle is not only evolving their technology but their ethical standards as well.


To that end, Catch-Photo-Release (CPR) tournaments where photos—not fish—are submitted for scoring, were created. At the Kayak Bass Fishing Open, for example, bass are photographed on an approved measuring board, and then released unharmed within moments of being hooked. Combined length, not weight, determines the winners. Photo-documenting tournament catches preserves gamefish populations and minimizes adverse impacts on aquatic ecosystems.


The stereotype that all hunters and fishermen are back woods, uneducated bumpkins is the farthest thing from the truth (as are all stereotypes).  Many brand leaders would be blown away to see the key role technology plays in hunting and fishing. New Heartland outdoor enthusiasts are waiting for brands to recognize and market to their unique culture. Brands that recognize this untapped audience and align with their values and passions will be championed.

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Drone Racing Nationals Have Got ESPN, Big Finance Flocking To The Sport

The past weekend’s National Drone Racing Championships brought together engineers, pilots, and developers from across the globe to compete for glory on an obstacle-filled racetrack on New York City’s Governor’s Island. Hosted by the burgeoning Drone Sports Association (DSA), the championships also became the first-ever drone racing event to be broadcast live on ESPN–one of several factors that’ve had major sponsors and investors from throughout the finance world circling around what PC Magazine says may be “the next big spectator sport.”


Presented by action camera-makers GoPro, the 2016 U.S. National Drone Racing Championships faced off 150 of the most accomplished drone pilots in the world, chosen through 20 different regional qualifying matches and from a pool of 1400 pilots competing around the country. The event’s top-of-the-line fliers were rigged with cameras to provide a drone’s-eye-view to pilot, who remotely steered their racing drones through obstacle courses designed to keep the mini-vehicles’ speed below 60 mph (though they’re often capable of doing 100).


In addition to having its championship stream on ESPN3, the event picked up major sponsorships for the DSA from Ernst & Young and American International Group (AIG), among others. Jeremy Johnson , AIG’s president of U.S. commercial insurance, explained in a DSA press release, ”Drones have the capability to transform the way industries operate and serve their clients, [and we’re] excited to further support the acceptance and use of this innovative technology.” Keith Strier, innovation and digital enterprise strategy co-leader Ernst & Young, also praised drones’ potential on and off the racecourse; he told MarketWatch,

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It’s a sport, a form of recreation, but it has implications in other sectors we have been following, like streaming and virtual reality … Take all these different topics and put them into one nice little package. No other sport comes closer to capitalizing on them.


MarketWatch points out that the past several years have seen the development of dozens of smaller-scale drone racing organizations, as well as larger leagues “that are all vying to become the Nascar of flying robots” as the sport takes off, including the DSA, the Drone Racing League and the International Drone Racing Association. None of the biggest organizations has secured the top spot yet to be spectator league of choice, the site notes, but several have seen a serious influx of investment and sponsorship dollars in the past few months. MarketWatch reports that the Drone Racing League seemingly secured a fresh $8 million in funding from such firms as RSE Ventures earlier this year, while the DR1 racing series will be streamed on the social platform Twitch later this month thanks to support from its Mountain Dew sponsors at PepsiCo.


As Marketplace points out, drone racing’s soaring popularity as a spectator sport may have something to do with the mainstream rise of low-contact sports like poker–a game which many were surprised to first discover on TV several years ago, perhaps, but which continues to draw huge crowds at home. Patrick Rishe, director of the sports business program at Washington University in St. Louis, told the program,

I never really thought of poker as much of a sport, until you could make a million dollars playing it, and then [have] ESPN televising it … That just shows you, if there’s money on the line, and if you have a passionate fan base out there, then you’re going to have viewers.


And while last weekend’s National Drone Racing Championships only had competitors vying for $50,000 in prize money, the stakes are rising quickly for both pilots and investors. In October, the DSA and its sponsors will head to Oahu, HI for the international championships–perhaps picking up additional heavyweight backers along the way. Dr. Scot Refsland , Chairman of the DSA, commented,” This is a big step forward for DSA and drone racing as a sport. To have major brands like GoPro, AIG, EMC, and EY follow ESPN and become our partners is an incredible testament to the immense growth of drone racing.”

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How A Sport Becomes An Olympic Event

The International Olympic Committee approved five new sports last week for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing were added to the existing 28 Olympic sports. But don’t get too comfortable with these sports as the additions are one-offs for Tokyo only and will not be a permanent part of the Olympics. The new sports will add 18 events and 474 athletes to the 2020 Games.


“Many sports want to get Olympic recognition because it is a way for public demonstration to the world, and a surge of interest often follows,” says Irwin Kishner, who focuses on sports law at Herrick, Feinstein LLP and has represented the New York Yankees, World Surfing League, Baseball Hall of Fame and dozens of other sports organizations.

Take surfing, where the final event of the 2014 WSL season had 6.2 million fans tune in to watch via a live stream on YouTube. It’s an impressive tally and more than Game 7 of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals that year, but the 2012 Summer Olympics in London had 3.6 billion different people watch at least one minute of the Games. The Olympics offer unprecedented global exposure for sports like surfing and skateboarding.

There are a couple of different paths to inclusion in the Olympics. The traditional way is for a sport’s international federation to petition the IOC, but the alternative is for local organizing committees to push favored sports in their country. This local process was formalized in 2014 under the “Olympic Agenda 2020,” which introduced sweeping changes to the Olympic movement, including reduced bidding costs, a digital Olympic channel and a more flexible program allowing for the introduction of new sports.


Tokyo 2020 is the first Games to take advantage of the changes. Giving local organizing committees more influence to introduce popular local sports makes hosting the Games more desirable at a time when many cities have been wary to make Olympic bids due to the costs. The new sports can boost TV ratings and attract more sponsors. Twenty other sports were considered, but rejected for 2020, including bowling, chess, korfball, sumo, tug of war and wushu.

The International Wushu Federation were one of eight sports to stake their claim for a place at Tokyo 2020 today

The first pre-requisite for a sport to be considered for the Olympics is to have an international federation. The federations fill out questionnaires that can run 100 pages long with information on gender equity, global participation and passion by fans as measured by TV audiences, social media, event attendance and more. The cost of venues to hold the sports is also a consideration with the IOC looking to avoid the white elephants left by the 2004 Games in Greece. Skateboarding and sports climbing in Tokyo will be held in temporary venues in urban settings.

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Another big factor for the IOC is the appeal to millennials, which helped with the inclusion of surfing and skateboarding. “The IOC is being very proactive in recognizing the importance of that audience,” says Kishner. “They don’t want to allow competitors like ESPN ’s X Games to challenge the sanctity of the Games.”

BEIJING - AUGUST 20: Kyle Bennett of the United States competes in the Men's BMX Seeding Phase at the Laoshan Bicycle Moto Cross (BMX) Venue during Day 12 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 20, 2008 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

BMX riding was added for Beijing in 2008 and snowboarding has been one of the most popular winter sports since it was added in 1998. Olympic sponsors like the new sports that skew younger because they are chasing that 18-34 audience.

“We want to take sport to the youth. With the many options that young people have, we cannot expect any more that they will come automatically to us. We have to go to them,” said IOC President Thomas Bach in a press release announcing the new sports for Tokyo.


The IOC Executive Board is the first group to review proposals for new sports. If the board approves a sport as it did in June for Tokyo’s five new sports, the only thing left is a rubber-stamp from the entire IOC, which took place last week in Rio de Janeiro.


Any of these new sports could potentially be added on a more permanent basis. These decisions are typically made seven years ahead of the next Games. Golf and rugby sevens were approved in 2009 for the Rio Olympics. Both sports will also have a slot in 2020 before they will be reassessed. Golf was previously part of the 1900 and 1904 Games, although it is off to a rough start this go around with the top four players in the world eschewing the event. A total of 21 eligible golfers dropped out citing the Zika virus, poor security or a full schedule.