Sports Ticker: IOC and WIPO partner to promote IP use, and Sony and Fnatic join forces in new global partnership – a speed-read of commercial updates from the sports world

Published on 28 June 2023

In a fortnight which saw the starts of both the Men's and Women's Ashes series, as well as the publication of the long awaited and very critical report from the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket as to the state of the sport, we bring you updates on a new framework for IP use and management in sport and an exciting new partnership between Sony INZONE and Fnatic. We also feature stories on a partnership between SailGP and Oracle, a Twitch star signing a $100m deal with a competitor and the results of an intriguing study into heading in football.

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IOC and WIPO join forces to promote IP use and management in sport

On 13 June the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) signed a Framework Cooperation Agreement. This combines both organisations' ability to promote and protect the use of intellectual property (IP) in sport. The framework envisages joint initiatives to be undertaken by each organisation to help strengthen the protection of IP rights. With every passing year, IP rights in sport become a more valuable commodity, with more and more platforms offering streaming of popular sporting events. A reported 90% of the revenues received by the IOC derived from selling media rights to broadcasters is used to support the staging of the Olympic games and the development of sports worldwide. There is historic precedent for this agreement: both organisations worked together in 1981 to sign the Nairobi Treaty which specifically protects the Olympic symbol against use for commercial purposes (in advertisements, on goods, as a mark, etc.) without the authorisation of the IOC. The Treaty provides another revenue stream for National Olympic Committees since they are entitled to a slice of the revenue if a country receives authorisation by the IOC to use the Olympic symbol.

Sony’s INZONE enters into global partnership with Fnatic

An exciting new global partnership between esports brand, Fnatic, and Sony's INZONE gaming gear brand was announced earlier this month. Sony's INZONE will become the Official Gaming Headset and Monitor Partner for Fnatic. This is a highly significant collaboration for the gaming industry. The Japanese brand began its provision of gaming monitors and headsets in July 2022, and since then has been leveraging its expertise in visual and audio technologies to help gamers take their gaming experience to the next level. This collaboration brings together Fnatic's expertise in pro-gaming hardware with their roster of professional players. Fnatic's stated aim is to transcend current industry standards and the boundaries of innovation in gaming. The company also has one eye on content creation and activations for their millions of fans. Fnatic CEO, Sam Matthews commented “we’re absolutely thrilled to welcome INZONE into the Fnatic family as a long-term partner of our organisation” highlighting the “strong alignment” between the two brands. It seems to have been inspired timing, as Fnatic won the VCT Valorant Masters this week, with the Grand Final taking place in Tokyo itself.

SailGP and Oracle form new cloud technology partnership

SailGP, the leading international sailing competition, and Oracle have announced an expanded partnership that will see the use of Oracle Cloud extended into Season 4 of SailGP, continuing until the end of 2026. Oracle is the well-known cloud computing service, and this new collaboration aims to enhance fan engagement through a new fan loyalty program called The Dock, powered by Oracle Customer Experience technology. The Dock will serve as an online hub for SailGP fans, offering personalized accounts, access to exclusive content and opportunities to earn points for rewards such as VIP access to events, signed merchandise and unique experiences with teams and athletes. The loyalty program will integrate Web2 and Web3 technologies through a partnership between Oracle and NEAR. Rob Tarkoff of Oracle commented “we’re excited to support [SailGP's] newest CX initiative, The Dock, as they redefine their approach to the fan experience”.

Twitch star signs $100 million deal with rival platform

Popular Twitch streamer, Félix Lengyel (also known as xQc), has signed a $70 million deal with rival livestreaming platform Kick, which could rise to $100 million when incentives agreed under the contract are included. The non-exclusive agreement, which is reportedly for a two-year term, has been deemed one of the most lucrative deals in online entertainment and is of a similar value to the two-year contract extension signed by LeBron James last year. Kick, which officially launched in January 2023, is similar in style to Twitch but is more encouraging of gambling content. Content creators are allegedly becoming increasingly attracted to Kick due to the financial opportunities offered: Kick takes 5% of a creator's subscription earnings, whilst Twitch (which is owned by Amazon) takes 50%. Additionally, it has been reported that a number of creators have openly discussed leaving Twitch due to incoming Twitch guidelines that appear to restrict certain branded content.

VR could reduce heading danger for footballers

The results of a new study led by the Manchester Metropolitan University have shown that virtual reality could help footballers effectively practise their heading ability without being exposed to the dangers inherent in repeatedly physically heading a ball. Participants in the study, who were made to train wearing virtual reality headsets, displayed improved "real heading" ability compared to a control group. These findings offer avenues for players to improve their technique in light of FA training guidelines that advise against or limit heading in training by age group. These guidelines were introduced over concerns related to impact of repetitive heading on a player's long-term well-being. Certain studies have shown that even a brief session of heading a ball could lead to changes in brain function and the way that the brain corresponds with muscles.

Extra Time...

...and finally, The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and Pledgeball have joined forces in a new partnership focussed on inspiring environmental change among the UK's tennis-playing community. Pledgeball has developed a new platform for players to make environmental pledges to their club which will then impact on their club's ranking in the eponymously titled "Pledgeball League". These pledges are then given a numerical value in CO2 which is converted into carbon reduction. Examples of possible pledges range from going vegan for two days a week to installing a set of solar panels. The Pledgeball Leage forms a new part of the LTA's rapidly-developing Environmental Sustainability Plan, with further initiatives in the pipeline. Both members of the partnership have welcomed the league's inception, with the LTA's Sustainability Lead Olly Scadgell hailing Pledgeball's “engaging platform” and Pledgeball founder Katie Cross describing the LTA's sustainability plan as “leading the way in sport”. First serve in the Pledgeball League was on Monday 12 June - it's off to an ace start.

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