How Does Show Business Influence Sports?

Fans support certain sport teams for various reasons. Main reason is, of course, location. But, this article is about fans who support teams located far from their home and factors that attract fans to those teams.

At the end of the day, fans love a sports team because of various emotions that team awakes in them. Wheather it is a certain player that fans idolise, a team or a player that radiates inspiration, aspiration that can be related to a team or player, underdog team appeal, team’s fighting spirit appeal or hate towards other dominant team…whatever it is, the connection is always emotional. It is emotional even when a fan is a bandwagoner (starts to support a team during a season they will almost certainly win the championship), because they also want to feel the joy of winning (however in my opinion they are just lazy and not loyal).

Of course, a fan has to get the chance to support a distant team. If there is no way to watch them play, there is no way to support them. I will apply these reasons to myself. I support four distant teams: Arsenal FC, New York Rangers, New York Giants and WRC Hyundai team.

I started to support Arsenal in 1997 when our local TV station broadcasted several Arsenal games. I always disliked dominant teams, so at that time I disliked the dominant Manchester United team, but more importantly, I loved the look of Arsenal’s old stadium Highbury and with time I really got to like the way Freddie Ljungberg played. Since then Arsenal moved to a new stadium, Freddie Ljungberg left the team, but I’m no less of a fan than I was before.

In 1995 (when I was 10 years old) Croatia was still at war, and during one of the attack alerts, while we were hiding in the basement, World Ice Hockey Championship was on TV (I remember very well that Finland beat Sweden 4-1 in the final). Mixture of various factors surely related to the situation outside our basement made me start to like hockey. But hockey was not on TV very often. Fast Forward to the year 2000, when I bought the NHL 2000 PC game. I revived my affection for hockey and tried to follow hockey as much as possible. My father noticed that and, as a good father, gifted my with an official Pittsbugh Penguins jersey. He bought the Penguins jersey because I didn’t have a particular team I liked and he liked the short term Penguin logo. I still have that jersey in my possesion, but I am a fan of Penguins’ big divisional rivals – Rangers. As a kid who watched all those TV shows located in NYC I started to aspire to one day visit the city and perhaps live there. So, you can say I felt a connection to Rangers not because of their success (at the time there was none), but because of the city of New York.

Even though I really liked Oliver Stone’s movie “Any Given Sunday”, unlike my friends, it didn’t attract me enough to the game. I only started to follow the NFL when our local TV station started to broadcast the game in 2006. Almost instantly me and my brother liked the sport and especially the Manning brothers. My long distance affection for the city of New York made it easy for me to choose which „Manning brother“ and his team I will support – the Giants.

As for WRC Hyundai, well that’s easy to explain. At the time I owned and loved a Hyundai Sonata 4th generation EF-B Series car, Hyundai’s WRC team were a new aspiring team in the sport. I sold the car, I own a Ford now, but I’m still only a Hyundai fan.

Entertainment and Sport

Just as entertainment business created a vision of New York City in my head, making it a place I somewhat still aspire to visit, in this article I will concentrate on the way entertainment business can make a fan discover a sport club or sport in general and influence fandom. I will also touch on how the entertainment industry was and still is used as a part of marketing strategy for sport brands.

There have always been big sport movies and sport books. To name a few: „Field of Dreams“, „Any Given Sunday“, “Cool Runnings,”, “Invincible”, “McFarland, USA,”, „The Damned United“, „Miracle“, „Angels in the Outfield“, “Draft Day”, “Fever Pitch”, “A Fan’s Notes”,… Oh, and „The Mighty Ducks“. I intentionally ended this list with “The Mighty Ducks” because that film is very important for this story.

Let’s start the story from the beginning. In 1988 the Great One – Wayne Gretzky, was involved in „The Trade“, move from the champions Edmonton Oilers to a smaller team – the LA Kings. This trade triggered a boom of hockey popularity in the USA. Disney rode the wave and in 1992, soon-to-be famous hockey movie „The Mighty Ducks“ was launched.

Not long after the movie’s opening weekend, 69 days later to be precise, the film accumulated $50M from North American box office. Coincidentally, that was exactly the same amount of money the NHL at the time demanded for a new expanstion team. It is easy to see what happened next – The Walt Disney Company was granted an expansion NHL franchise.

I’d like to say there was a lot of studious research and thoughtful analysis, but there was none. We quickly negotiated the deal. The night before I got on the plane, we talked about what were we going to call [the team]. And I said, ‘Well, why don’t we call it the Mighty Ducks?

Michael Eisner

CEO, Disney

The team was called the Mighty Ducks and just when the time arrived to announced the team’s (movie inspired) logo, „The Migthy Ducks“ movie appeared in the video rental stores accross US and „owned“ the market with continuous top-10 presence in the market. Later that same year, in the Autumn of 1993, the NHL team officially called “The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim” played their first game following a $450,000 Disney on Ice Beauty and the Beast pregame show. This Disney’s move was a big and never-before seen experiment in the show business industry, sports and marketing. Mighty Ducks were the only major North American team named after a brand.

Today, when I think about how massive this move was, it makes me think it is something that would even in today’s world be considered as „shocking“ and „groundbreaking“, let alone in 1993.

Family entertainment media giants, with no experience in sports management, used a hockey movie as a market research tool and created a successfull sport franchise in a brutal sport where fights, blood and teams nicknamed Broadstreet Bullies are a normal occurance.

This was a marketing symbiosis every brand dreams of, the one where every side earns great deal of exposure and revenue. On top of that, this was a big win for the American „smallest“ major league! Disney, marketing and entertainment giant, had a goal to succeed in their league.

They are outstanding marketers, and if they can start drawing and start getting people interested in hockey, its a major plus for us.

Fred Comrie

former managing general partner, International Hockey League

Before mentioned Disney’s CEO Michael Eisner played, of course, a key role in this project. Under his leadership, Disney Corporation expeirenced the so called „Disney Decade“. The company opened Disneyland Paris, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney California Adventure, aquired media holdings ABC, ESPN, and Miramax, aquired two sport teams (The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim & The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), local cable channel KCAL-TV to broadcast their sport matches and produced more films than ever before. Disney decided to make Anaheim their headquarters, Disneyland is located there, as well as both of their sport franchises.

As I said before, this was a very good business move. Two more Mighty Ducks movies followed (cameo appearances from hockey greats: Wayne Gretzky, Chris Chelios, and Paul Kariya), animated TV show focused on Mighty Ducks’ mascot Wildwing aired on Disney owned ABC and the Mighty Ducks merchandise dominated the sales at almost impossible levels.

At one point The Mighty Ducks’ merchandise outsold all the other NHL teams combined, forthfold. Yes, The Mighty Ducks sold 80% of all NHL $1B worth merchandise.

All this consumerism with time wore off. Disney failed to aquire ESPN West, at the turn of the century NHL experienced a dip in popularity and after the 2004/05 lockout season, Disney called it quits on the money hole the Might Ducks have become. Despite all the potential, NHL didn’t maximise the Mighty Ducks’ popularity as well as they could.

Hockey is great for the Disney Co., It’s possible the Ducks will be on Channel 9 (Disney-owned KCAL-TV), we’ll have Duck merchandise in our Disney Stores, and hockey-related shows on the Disney Channel. And I’m sure there will be some Mighty Duck parades down Main Street in Disneyland after we win 39 games our first season.

Michael Eisner

CEO, Disney

Soon after Mr. Eisner left Disney corporation (after 8 years), the Mighty Ducks were handed to new owners. The new owners who changed the logo, but only removed the word “Mighty”, since the fans voted to keep the team’s identity. The very first season under new ownership was the most succesfull season in franchise history, the season in which the Anaheim Ducks were crowned the Stanley Cup Champions. Mighty Ducks, as well as the MLS team Angels, at the end of the day proved to be an unprofitable project for Disney, with one difference – under Disney ownership The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim managed to win the World Series.

Even though this story ended, it has shown a way. Today, Red Bull somewhat follows that way and combines their brand power to stand behind their sport franchises.

In another example, in his song „Empire State of Mind“, Jay Z brags about how he popularized the Yankee hat more than the New York Yankees. And, if you consider the world outside the North America, he is right.

I find it funny how Americans, when they see a Yankee hat abroad, tend to think that the world is full of Yankees’ fans. Outside of North America, that hat has rarely anything to do with baseball. It is a fashion statement. I bet many people who wear it don’t know even know it’s related to a sports team. Do the New York Yankees care? No. They even formed a partnership with Jay-Z, the Yankee hat biggest model, allowing him to create his own branded New York Yankees’ hats, t-shirts and hoodies. Even though the hip-hop superstar is a part owner of the Brooklyn Nets, he is well aware of the brand strength he has helped to create for the Yankees.

New Era is a family owned cap company that basically sells Americana worldwide. Around the world they have about 100 specialised shops and just 5 of them are in the United States, while you can find 40 New Era specialized shops in South Korea, alone. In United States New Era merchandise is sold in various sporting goods shop and abroad it uses the top work American branding does to sell the American culture and style – Americana. And, let’s be honest, the main reason Americana is so popular worldwide is American show business, that populazires American style and culture through every movie, TV show, song video and song.

For majority of the world, sport rides the wave. And on the main display in each of these New Era shops is a a true Americana – the Yankee hat.

In 2000, New Era had just 2% of its business abroad. Today, that number grew up to 30% in 85 different countries and subsequentially to $1B in annual revenue. New Era, like the rest of North American sports can thank great marketing and branding, as well as advances in technology for this success.

New Era targets each international market differently. For example, baseball is very popular in Japan, while the NBA has a growing fan base in China. Legacies of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls or the NWA popularized Raiders made these hats fan favourites, but Yankee hat is still a Yankee hat, nothing can compete with it.

New Era also “ups their game”, they don’t want to let the popularity of their product stagnate. So that’s why they joined forces with designer labels to add style to their brand and keep it as a part of the uniform for hip-hop culture and similar cultures.

I made the Yankee hat more famous than Yankees can.

Jay Z

Worldwide, the Yankees are always at up at the top of the list. The first thing everyone wants to buy is the Yankee cap.

Chris Koch

CEO, New Era

Everybody is an Athlete

When Nike decided to promote their new products they didn’t call up any of their superstar athletes. They brought in the actor/comedian Kevin Hart.

Even before Jay Z and the Mighty Ducks, in 1980 a hip-hop group Run D.M.C. joined Adidas for mutual benefit. Run DMC promoted the Adidas shoes through a song named “My Adidas”.

Nowadays, social media offers compelling marketing opportunity for sport brands and celebrities. How? Well, Kevin Hart has 34.4 million Twitter followers, while Under Armour’s most popular athlete Stephen Curry – has 9.1 million Twitter followers. Message Kevin Hart sends will reach far more fans. Fans that might have not even been sports goods customers.

Nike truly believes if you have a body, you are an athlete. Being an athlete is a mindset. We can all adapt that mindset.

Kevin Hart


When Kevin Hart started his own “Move With Hart” movement, his fans heard his message and his charm attracted them to it. Therefore it is not a surprise that “Move With Hart“ „moved“ 15,000 people to 15 5K runs across three continents. Hart’s social media presence is so powerful that he can call fans for improvised runs in various cities.

Stephen Curry could possibly do that in Bay Area, Carolina and few other places, but definitely not for example Cleveland. Kevin Hart can, and his 34.4 million followers will, well follow.

Of couse, Nike produced Kevin Hart running merchandise, signature shoe called “The Hustle Hart”. This is a running show, but also a fashion statement, because that is the power of Kevin Hart’s brand, energy and message. This shoe targets athletes, but also a wider audience of non-athletes (or “potential future athletes”).



Part of our mission statement is, if you have a body, you are an athlete. Kevin Hart is incredibly inspiring.

Mark Parker

CEO, Nike

Just like with the athletes, the idea from the brand is to get some fashion credibility from celebrities that will make kids want to buy their shoes.

Matt Powell

Sports Industry Analyst, The NPD Group (research firm)

Kevin Hart is of course not the only celebrity to promote athletic gear. Just to name a few of the biggest:

Kanye West – Adidas (All seven iterations of the Yeezy Boost shue sold out), another „Kardashian“ Kylie Jenner – Puma, Rihanna– Puma, Gisele Bundchen – Under Armour (the company wanted to shake of the image of „sport gear for boys“, so they produced ads with female gymnasts, ballerinas and paired up with world’s most famous supermodel).


Even though the sport and entertainment bussiness synergy started a while ago, Run DMC & Adidas or The Mighty Ducks & Disney didn’t maximize the possibilities these kind of partnerships offer. Now, the big brands decided to do so. All these collaborations between celebrieties and sport apparel brands will, in most cases, result in increased popularity, and of course, finances.

But what about the next Mighty Ducks? Red Bull teams are doing a great job, but Red Bull is an energy drink, not an entertainment product. Entertainment product has a bigger chance to popularize sport brands.

When there were attempts to bring Oakland Raiders and San Diego Charges to Los Angeles, a gentleman named Robert Iger was appointed to lead these relocations. In the end, the Oakland Raiders moved to Las Vegas, but the San Diego Chargers did move to LA and became LA Chargers.

Oh, Mr. Iger is until, at least, 2018. the CEO of Disney Corporation. Make of that what you will.

Tomislav Žarković

Tomislav Žarković

Overtime Sports Marketing

If you have any questions about sports marketing, feel free to contact me at

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