There was a time not long ago when a pro sports franchise planned for the future by carefully assembling its front office and coaching staff, drafting and trading for promising young players, and creating a solid foundation for business success by securing an inviting home playing field.
That is changing.
Atlanta pro sports owner Arthur Blank, who counts the NFL Falcons and Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United among his assets, is peering into the future and wants to be prepared. As an aside, both the Falcons and the United play at the state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, which one of Blank’s companies oversees and operates.
Clearly, Blank – with controlling interest in teams that represent America’s favorite sport and the world’s favorite sport – is rooted in the conventional ways to be a successful sports entrepreneur. And in doing so, the co-founder of Home Depot is heeding an old locker room axiom: If you’re not improving, you’re falling behind.
On Monday, AMB Sports + Entertainment – the arm of the Blank Family of Businesses that owns the pro sports teams – announced it was launching a subsidiary, AMBSE Ventures, which will invest in emerging sports-related businesses that can address the challenges of the future.
AMBSE Ventures will target tech startups and cutting-edge enterprises to enhance fan engagement and improve team performance. These would be fledgling businesses that can contribute to Blank’s existing sports entities.
AMBSE chief executive Steve Cannon was quoted as saying that if sports betting came to Georgia, technologies associated with sports wagering could also be a target for investment.
Apparently, the AMBSE Ventures plan is to take equity positions in businesses that are not merely abstractions but rather up-and-running and need capital to grow.
Referring to Blank, Cannon said: “Arthur was talking about, ‘What happens when we come out of the pandemic? What’s around the corner?’ The conversation we had with Arthur was about the ‘tomorrow’ problems.”
The new venture investment enterprise will identify companies that are forward-thinking over the next year.
The Blank organization isn’t the first sports-related enterprise to seek out and support emerging or incubating businesses or venture into new fields.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft were among the first high-profile investors in DraftKings, which was considered a new-age fan engagement technology just a handful of years ago. Now DraftKings Sportsbook is one of the leading sports betting companies in America.
Ted Leonsis, owner of the NBA Washington Wizards, NHL Washington Capitals and WNBA Washington Mystics, through his Revolution Group, invests in far-ranging businesses (including DraftKings). Also, his Monumental Sports + Entertainment company launched an OTT (over-the-top) video network in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia regions delivering sports content that doesn’t appear over the air or on cable broadcasts.
The NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers created the Sixers Innovation Lab that supports incubating businesses in areas such as non-money online gaming, and even a company that developed a hydration product.
Other sports organizations/executives that have made investments in forward-thinking sports-associated businesses are the Los Angeles Dodgers/Elysian Park Ventures (LeagueApps, youth sports organizations); Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert/Courtside Ventures (DIBBS, trading cards), and the Green Bay Packers/Microsoft/Titletown Tech (StatusPRO, a sports tech company developing augmented reality/virtual reality concepts for player training and game preparation).