1. Pittsburgh at the Tip of the Iceberg: Consol Energy Center Opens
"Destiny has a new home" is the marketing slogan the Pittsburgh Penguins have chosen for their sparkling new arena, the Consol Energy Center. If things go according to plan on the Iron City ice, Consol Energy Center will help sweep the Penguins into the NHL Playoffs next spring, much as the new Target Field helped boost the Minnesota Twins into the MLB postseason.
With the puck now dropped on the 2010 National Hockey League season, the biggest story early on coming out of the NHL is widespread acclaim for Consol Energy Center. The spectacular arena is being hailed for its distinctive glass wall, leading-edge technology and sound system, unspoiled sight lines, wide concourses, and enviable locker rooms. "Our fans in Pittsburgh are really going to enjoy that building," said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman during a NHL Network interview last week.
The Penguins drew a record crowd of 18,000-plus for their season opener, the first regular-season game at the arena. The crowd was the largest to watch a hockey game in Pittsburgh, and the game was the team's 167th consecutive sellout.
Consol Energy Center is one of several new facilities to open this year. While 2010 marks the first year since 2003 that a new venue opened in each of the four major U.S. sports, none of those stadiums signed a naming rights partner faster than the Penguins. Consol Energy (CNX) in Canonsburg, Pa., bought the entitlement almost two years before the arena opened. The company is paying $100 million over 21 years, roughly 30 percent of the total construction cost.
New American Sports Facilities, 2010
NFL New Meadowlands Stadium $1.6 billion
MLB Target Field $545 million
NBA Amway Center $480 million
NHL Consol Energy Center $321 million
Consol Energy Center is also the fourth new sports venue to open in Pittsburgh since 2001, following Pitt Basketball's The Pete (2002) and the MLB Pirates' PNC Park and the NFL Steelers' Heinz Field in 2001. Its champion sports teams and upgraded infrastructure help dispel the notion that Pittsburgh isn't a major U.S. market and keep the city at the top of "America's Best Sports Town" lists almost every year.
Awareness campaigns around Consol Energy Center also spotlight Penguins star center Sidney Crosby, who is fast developing a marketing rivalry with his nemesis, Washington Capitals wing Alex Ovechkin, to match their on-the-ice clashes. Hockey equipment maker CCM is indroducing a funny spot featuring Ovechkin's head inside a bowling ball bag this month, while HBO Sports is producing its 24/7 series around the Penguins-Capitals rivalry this winter. The two teams will meet outdoors at Heinz Field on New Year's Day for the NHL's annual Bridgestone Winter Classic. NBC holds the rights to that chill game.
2. MLB Postseason Marketing Machine
As we prepare for the second phase of the Major League Baseball playoffs—the National League Championship Series pitting the Philadelphia Phillies against the San Francisco Giants and the American League Championship Series with the New York Yankees taking on the Texas Rangers—MLB is producing its largest postseason marketing campaign ever. Approximately $20 million in media assets will be spread across rights holders through the World Series, according to SportsBusiness Journal. There is also an additional $5 million in paid media, including "a broad cable buy on non-sports outlets such as Discovery, CNN and FX, and paid spot radio, digital, outdoor, and print."
In Philadelphia, the highly anticipated battle between Cy Young Award caliber pitchers Roy Halladay and San Francisco's Tim Lincecum on Saturday is driving secondary ticket prices for NLCS Game One out of the park. The average ticket price for the game on fansnap.com was $552, with Citizens Bank Park Diamond Club seats going for $1,269 apiece.
In Arlington, Tex., MLB will continue its policy of charging $25 per guest to the businesses renting office suites connected to the ballpark. Rangers Ballpark is MLB's only stadium that has on-premises office space with views of the field, and renters there were long ago informed that, should the Rangers make the postseason, when MLB controls game ticketing, anyone who visited the office in order to watch the game from the balcony wouldn't be able to do so for free.
On the sponsorship side of the NLCS/ALCS, Yum! Brands' (YUM) Taco Bell is introducing a TV ad for its new "XXL Chalupa" featuring Yankees manager Joe Girardi and pitcher Mariano Rivera. (We're guessing Rivera will throw a lot of sinkers should he eat one right before he's scheduled to pitch.)