The Business of Sports

LeBron Drops to the Back of the Q


1. Q Scorecard: On the Rise and Going Down

Winning almost universal scorn after he announced he was leaving Cleveland for South Beach, LeBron James' popularity ratings were destined to go down. Now we know exactly how far they fell. According to the Q Scores Co., which measures the appeal of celebrities and athletes, only 14 percent of Americans view James in a favorable light. That's down 42 percent from January, when 24 percent perceived him as a positive figure. James' negative scores increased a staggering 77 percent, jumping from 22 percent to 39 percent. James is now the sixth-most-disliked sports personality, according to Q Scores, behind Michael Vick, Tiger Woods, Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, and Kobe Bryant.

That's not reason enough to feel badly for the man once affectionately known as "the King." It's extremely unlikely James will lose any endorsement deals because of the ill-conceived way he left Cleveland. He is arguably one of the world's best and best-known athletes, and he still counts Vitaminwater, Nike (NKE), and McDonald's (MCD) as sponsors.

Dropping with James were his new Miami Heat sidekicks. Dwyane Wade's positive Q Score fell from 21 percent to 15 percent and his negative Q score increased from 18 percent to 25 percent. While Chris Bosh's positive Q Score merely dropped from 13 percent to 12 percent, his negative Q Score rose from 21 percent to 35 percent.

On the flip side, our unofficial popularity poll has three sports figures on the rise. First is newly crowned U.S. Open Champ Rafael Nadal. At 24, Nadal is the youngest winner of the career Grand Slam. Q Scores expect Nadal's recognition among the general American public to grow, from 24 percent to 30 percent, based on his win. With more lucrative endorsement opportunities, Nadal could overtake Roger Federer in annual earnings as early as next year. Next is Rex Ryan, whose awareness among football fans increased significantly after he appeared in the HBO miniseries Hard Knocks. More than a million viewers tuned into the show finale. Finally, after a recent fling with Kim Kardashian and a new endorsement contract from Under Armour (UA), Dallas Cowboys WR Miles Austin is everywhere, from Sports Illustrated to People. Austin knows best: The key to popularity is cross-appeal.

2. Cowboys Stadium: One Year Later

Cowboys Stadium is no longer the newest or most expensive stadium in the NFL. (Both distinctions now go to the New Meadowlands Stadium, opened this year at a cost of $1.6 billion.) At a capacity of 80,000, Cowboys Stadium is far from the biggest stadium in the NFL. (FedEx Field in Washington has 11,000 more seats.) Perhaps worst of all, the stadium's pride, joy, and namesake, the Dallas Cowboys, started 0-2 in the perennially tough NFC East division. Nevertheless, what the stadium "lacks" in price tag, size, and tenant success, it makes up in prestige. One year after opening, Cowboys Stadium has solidified its status as the preeminent facility in U.S. sports.

What makes Cowboys Stadium so impressive is the range of events it can host. "The House Jerry Jones Built" for $1.2 billion already has held the NBA All-Star Game, a welterweight championship boxing match, concerts, religious ceremonies, and football games. In less than five months, it will be the site of Super Bowl XLV. World Cup matches could land on the schedule should the U.S. land the 2018 or 2022 tournament.

The ability to create a multipurpose venue while maintaining an intimate atmosphere is one of the primary reasons that Dallas-based architecture firm HKS was commissioned to design the world's largest domed stadium. It's why the City of Arlington voted in 2004 to commit $325 million to the stadium project. At this point, the city should be glad it did.

According to the Dallas Morning News, tax revenue generated by the stadium is beyond the greatest expectations. The $20.4 million that Arlington owes in bond payments this year easily will be covered by the more than $27 million in taxes that Cowboys Stadium helps generate. Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck said the bond performance has been particularly impressive in the current economy, especially since Arlington's sales tax revenue plummeted during the last economic downturn. If the tax revenue stays steady this time around, Arlington could pay off the bonds early, as it did for the Texas Rangers' ballpark.

It's easy for Cowboys Stadium to generate money when you consider these numbers—projected vs. real— from the City of Arlington, the Dallas Cowboys, and Team Marketing Report:

• 70,058 — Projected average attendance for Cowboys games

• 86,990 — Actual average attendance for Cowboys games

• $83.80 — Projected average ticket price for Cowboys games

• $159.65 — Actual average ticket price for Cowboys games

• 2 — Projected and actual number of soccer matches

• 30,000 — Projected average attendance for soccer

• 69,741 — Actual average attendance for soccer

While Cowboys Stadium may not be the biggest and baddest in sports—heck, even its signature scoreboard is about to be dwarfed by one at Charlotte Motor Speedway—it remains an example for other facilities to emulate.

Rick_horrow
Rick Horrow is a leading expert in the business of sports. As chief executive officer of Horrow Sports Ventures, he has been the architect of 103 deals worth more than $13 billion in sports and urban infrastructure projects. He is also the sports business analyst for CNN, Fox Sports, and the Fox Business Channel. Karla Swatek is vice-president of Horrow Sports Ventures and co-author of Beyond the Box Score: An Insider's Guide to the $750 Billion Business of Sports (2010). Horrow is also the host of Sportfolio, a new program on Bloomberg TV that airs Wednesday nights at 9 pm ET.

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