Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Manchester United vision to F1 signs with a beauty brand.

The Takeaway is Trippant’s round-up of essential stories on communications trends in sport, entertainment and experience.  

This week: Messi and Apple take a second bite at MLS, Sir Jim Ratcliffe lands in Manchester, Vice Media faces a grim future, F1 signs with a beauty brand, German football fans find their voice, Gareth Southgate drama hits the BBC, and more. 

 

Apple, MLS, Messi and the future of sports media

Major League Soccer is back and its fortunes are being followed more closely, and more widely, than ever before. 

With a couple of years to go until a Fifa World Cup in North America, the 2024 season has a pivotal feel to it. For one thing, this will be the first full US campaign for Lionel Messi, whose Inter Miami side kicked off this week with a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake. 

And observers of the sports and media industries are also intrigued by the role of Apple, in the second year of its comprehensive, decade-long, $2.5 billion deal for global MLS broadcast rights. The tech titan has leaned into the Messi phenomenon – its second Apple TV+ documentary on the player, Messi’s World Cup: Rise of a Legend, also arrived this week – and it has credited his presence with a significant growth and internationalisation of subscriptions to its MLS Season Pass.  

“I won’t give you the exact number, but pre-Messi it was very US dominant,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s SVP of services, at an MLS season launch event this week. “Post-Messi, it changed materially.”

Cue has called on MLS clubs to try and attract more stars to join the 36-year-old Argentinian. In the meantime, it has broadened its marketing push for the year ahead, with its Beats by Dre headphone brand becoming a league sponsor and releasing branded products for each of the 29 teams. 

A strong ecosystem play is the likely core of Apple’s future sports strategy. Apple Music, of course, is the sponsor of the Super Bowl Halftime Show. This week, meanwhile, the company launched a new Apple Sports app, free to all users of iOS. 

Apple Sports allows fans to check scores, team stats and betting odds for several international leagues and integrates directly into other apps – including Apple TV+ for its coverage of MLS and Friday night Major League Baseball games. 

Some leagues, most notably the NFL, are missing at launch. But it is not difficult to imagine Apple Sports as a portal to more and more content and functions across the company’s family of devices, as Apple makes a push for the centre of sports fans’ lives. 

 

The Recap

The New York Times on Jim Ratcliffe’s Manchester United vision

After a tortuous, months-long process, British chemicals magnate Sir Jim Ratcliffe has finally secured his £1.25 billion, 27.7 per cent stake in Manchester United.

The Ineos founder will assume oversight of the Premier League side’s football operations and has grand plans for their dated Old Trafford home. First, he must work to convince the United faithful and adapt to an altered profile in the UK.

 

New York on the collapse of Vice Media

Back in 2017, youth-focused alternative media company Vice Media enjoyed a $5.7 billion valuation, along with a reputation for bold and original journalism. This week, its latest CEO announced that it would no longer post stories on its flagship website amid hundreds of job cuts – bringing another great hope of the mid-2010s internet to its knees.

 

The Financial Times on AI and the future of advertising

Generative AI tools are making it easier for advertisers to create, localise and target their content, which could simultaneously stimulate rapid growth and a huge debate over underlying business models.

 

The Drum on the NBA’s ‘scrapbook storytelling’

The NBA has again shown off its playful, creative approach to audience outreach with a new campaign targeted at younger European fans. 

Developed with Studio Something, ‘The ABC of NBA’ combines a nostalgic 90s aesthetic with smart digital strategy to help newcomers understand what makes the world’s premier basketball league so compelling. 

 

The DW on the Bundesliga’s investment backtrack

German football fans have served a potent reminder of their pooled influence – their sustained protests have seen the Bundesliga withdraw plans to seek up to €1 billion in private equity investment.  

 

SportsPro on F1’s Charlotte Tilbury tie-up

Beauty brand Charlotte Tilbury has become a sponsor of the F1 Academy, a development project aiming to prepare more female drivers for elite racing series. 

The company will champion emerging stars like Lola Lovinfosse in a partnership which hints at changing commercial horizons for motorsport’s blue-riband championship.  

 

Hector Bellerin talks sustainability with The Athletic

From his love of boundary-pushing fashion to his vegan lifestyle, Real Betis right-back Hector Bellerin has long cut a distinctive figure in professional football. Now, the former Arsenal and Barcelona star is fronting Forever Green, his club’s sustainability initiative, and speaking plainly on taking individual and collective responsibility for environmental impact. 

 

The BBC confirms TV switch for Southgate play

Dear England – a play based on the on and off-field experiences of Gareth Southgate as manager of the national football team – was a hit with critics and audiences during its National Theatre run in London last year. And it’s now headed for television, with Joseph Fiennes reprising his lead role in a four-part BBC drama.  

 

From Trippant

A big new client announcement from Trippant: we’re delighted to be supporting Tiparra in its efforts to build new partnerships in Europe.

Tiparra is a digital engagement platform that helps rights holders tailor compelling experiences for their fans, all managed from a simple mobile app. The team have already worked with the likes of Brisbane Roar and the ACT Brumbies, and they’ll be heading to SportsPro Live in London in April. 

Trippant champions people and storytelling to grow businesses across sport, entertainment and experience. If you want to see what we can do for you, connect with us here.

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