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The Deals Debrief: Washington Commanders, Saudi Arabia and Adidas among those making headlines in Q3

In the first instalment of a new quarterly feature, SportsPro takes a deeper dive into some of the most significant deals that were signed in June, July and August.

12 September 2023 SportsPro

Every day, SportsPro keeps tabs on the major deals as they happen across the sports industry.

Over the past three months, we tracked hundreds of sponsorship and personal endorsement deals, along with dozens of media rights agreements and a host of other arrangements spanning sectors such as technology, investment and betting.

In the first instalment of a new regular feature that will soon be exclusive to SP+ subscribers, SportsPro looks back on the quarter that was to offer a deeper dive into some of the deal-making highlights from the past three months.

Click the headlines below to reveal summaries, analysis and data-led insights into the deals that got the industry talking.

Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney part of group investing in Alpine F1 team

Sport: Motorsport
Category: Investment
Terms: Valued at €200m for a 24% stake

Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney are part of an investment group that has purchased a 24 per cent stake in the Alpine Formula One team for €200 million (US$217 million), valuing the Renault-owned outfit at €900 million (US$978 million).

SportsPro says…

While Otro Capital and RedBird are likely to have provided most of the funding for the deal, Alpine will be hoping that the star power of Reynolds and McElhenney will help emulate the impact the pair have had on Welsh soccer club Wrexham.

The size of the investment in Alpine also illustrates the rising stock of Formula One. The average team in the series is now worth US$1.88 billion, according to Forbes, which represents a 276 per cent increase since 2019.

PGA Tour, LIV Golf and DP World Tour agree shock merger

Sport: Golf
Category: Politics & Governance
Terms: Not disclosed

The PGA Tour, LIV Golf and DP World Tour agreed a sensational deal to merge their commercial operations in June, bringing to an end a bitter sporting civil war that has divided the professional game.

SportsPro says…

It would be fair to say the merger has left golf’s stakeholders with more questions than answers. It remains unclear what the new entity will be called, what impact it will have on the calendar, and how it will affect existing commercial deals, among a host of other issues still to be ironed out.

What is certain is that this move reiterates how crucial sport is to Saudi Arabia’s ‘Vision 2030’ strategy. The deal came in the same week that the PIF took control of four of the kingdom’s top-flight soccer clubs, which was the catalyst for a host of star players moving to the Saudi Pro League over the summer.

Manchester United secure UK£900m Adidas extension

Sport: Soccer
Category: Sponsorship
Terms: Ten-year deal valued at UK£900 million

Premier League giants Manchester United have agreed a ten-year extension of one of their most important commercial relationships, prolonging their kit supply deal with German sportswear company Adidas until 2035.

SportsPro says…

Adidas’ previous ten-year deal was worth UK£750 million and the new contract suggests that the United brand is still appealing to commercial partners despite the club’s recent struggles on the pitch and uncertainty over its ownership.

It is also another example of Adidas doubling down on some of its most important deals following the termination of its highly profitable partnership with rapper Kanye West, which left the company with billions of dollars’ worth of Yeezy inventory sitting in storage.

Washington Commanders sale to Josh Harris approved by NFL owners

Sport: American football
Category: Investment, acquisitions
Terms: Takeover valued at US$6.05 billion

Dan Snyder is no longer the owner of the Washington Commanders after the National Football League (NFL) approved the sale of the franchise to a group of investors led by Josh Harris for US$6.05 billion.

SportsPro says…

Harris has experience of breathing new life into struggling sports teams through his ownership of the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Devils. In the Commanders, he inherits a franchise that ranked last in the NFL for attendance in 2022 as support for Snyder’s ownership reached an all-time low.

The deal marked the second time in as many years that the change in ownership for an NFL franchise has broken the world record for the most valuable sports team sale in history, after the Denver Broncos were purchased by Rob Walton for US$4.65 billion in 2022.

DAZN acquires women’s soccer platform Ata Football

Sport: Soccer
Categories: Finance & investment, acquisitions, women’s sport
Terms: Not disclosed

Ata Football has been acquired by digital sports media company DAZN, which has hired Esmeralda Negron and Hannah Brown, the company’s co-founders, to lead its new women’s sports division.

SportsPro says…

Women’s soccer has been identified as a growth opportunity for DAZN, which has the global rights to the Uefa Women’s Champions League, Spain’s LigaF and Germany’s Frauen Bundesliga. The broadcaster also launched a FAST channel dedicated to the women’s game earlier this year.

The deal caps a swift rise for Ata Football, which was only formed three years ago. With funding from 777 Partners, the company showed live and on-demand games on its own platform and also acted as a sales agency for some of Europe’s top-flight competitions, securing deals in markets such as the US for the likes of D1 Arkema, Serie A Femminile and the Frauen Bundesliga.

ESPN and Penn Entertainment to launch sportsbook in US$2bn deal

Sport: Misc
Category: Betting
Terms: Penn to pay US$1.5bn over initial ten years and grant ESPN US$500m of warrants

US sports broadcaster ESPN and Penn Entertainment have announced plans to rebrand and relaunch the betting firm’s sportsbook as ESPN Bet in the 16 states where the company has a license.

SportsPro says…

This marks a significant investment by Penn, which is essentially paying to use the ESPN brand in the hope that it can help it muscle in on a US sports betting market predominantly dominated by the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel.

ESPN already airs daily multiplatform betting-focused shows and runs odds across its website and programming, but this is its first major relationship with a sports betting partner.

Other US media companies have teamed up with gambling firms to varying degrees of success. ESPN’s deal with Penn came shortly after Fox and Flutter announced the closure of their Fox Bet sports betting platform.

Viacom18 lands global broadcast rights for Indian cricket

Sport: Cricket
Category: Broadcast & OTT, media rights
Terms: I₹5,963 crore (US$720 million) from September 2023 to March 2028

Media group Viacom18 has agreed to pay approximately US$720 million to secure the television and digital rights to all Indian international and domestic cricket played on home soil until March 2028.

SportsPro says…

Viacom is now a major player in the Indian cricket broadcast landscape following a series of significant investments over the past year or so. Last July, the company secured the domestic digital rights to the Indian Premier League (IPL) before adding coverage of the new Women’s Premier League (WPL) T20 competition for five seasons.

Disney Star and Sony, which was expected to make a big push for the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) rights after its merger with Zee Entertainment, also participated in the auction. On the face of it, the new deal is less than the I₹6,138.1 crore Star India paid in the previous five-year cycle, but ESPNcricinfo reports that the contract’s per-match value of I₹67.75 crore is nearly 13 per cent higher.

Nine in ten Gen Z sports fans use social media to consume content as consumption habits shift

Date: June 2023
Published by: Deloitte
Market(s) covered: US
Category: Broadcast & OTT, Social media and fan engagement

  • 58 per cent of Gen Z and millennials say live events are their favourite type of content, compared to 71% of all fans
  • 90 per cent of Gen Z fans use social media to consume sports content
  • Three-quarters of fans rely on television to watch live events, which decreases to 60 per cent for Gen Z and millennial demographics

Access the full report here.

UK population more likely to buy from brands sponsoring women’s sport

Date: July 2023
Published by: Women’s Sport Trust, Onside
Market(s) covered: UK
Category: Sponsorship, women’s sport

  • 24.5 million adults are now aware of any women’s sport sponsorship in the UK
  • 60 per cent of 2,000 consumers surveyed agree that sponsors should invest in both the men’s and women’s side of a sport they support
  • 29 per cent think more favourably of companies or brands that support women’s sport through their sponsorship, compared to 17 per cent that support men’s sport
  • 16 per cent of UK population more likely to buy from a brand that sponsors women’s sport, compared to 13 per cent that sponsor a men’s sport

Access the full study here.


Founded: 2017
HQ: Seychelles
Sector: Cryptocurrency
Category: Sponsorship
Key deals signed: Manchester City, Majesticks

Sports properties have cooled their interest in the cryptocurrency sector in the wake of the collapse of FTX, but one company that continues to convince rights holders of its status as a trustworthy partner is OKX.

The cryptocurrency exchange and Web3 technology firm had a particularly active quarter, which saw OKX upgrade its relationship with Premier League champions Manchester City and become the first global partner of the Majesticks LIV Golf team.

The agreement with City in particular represents a sizeable financial commitment. According to the Daily Mail, OKX is paying English soccer club more than UK£55 million to be its sleeve sponsor for the next three years. An advertising space on the shirt aside, the company will be hoping that the deal buys it global recognition and valuable credibility in an industry that is currently short on goodwill among consumers.

As well as City and Majesticks, OKX also counts the McLaren Formula One team as part of its sponsorship portfolio and has collaborated with the UK-based outfit on special liveries for races in Asia.

Its sport partners will be reassured by the level of activity on the OKX crypto exchange, which in July saw US$28.6 billion worth of trading on the platform – a similar volume to that on Coinbase, which also has a presence in sports, most notably through a partnership with the National Basketball Association (NBA).

While headquartered in the Seychelles, OKX has plans to expand its global presence in the near future, already announcing its intention to open an office in Turkey and to make France its European hub.

This is the first instalment of a new quarterly feature exclusive to SP+ members. To find out more or to subscribe, click here.

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