The PLL: Building The Next Major Professional Sports League
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Lacrosse is the fastest-growing North American sport across youth & collegiate levels, and there is a massive opportunity to build the next major professional sports league.
That’s why I’m excited to announce I’ve invested in the Premier Lacrosse League.
The PLL’s new round of financing was led by return investor The Chernin Group (TCG), with continued participation from Blue Pool Capital and Brett Jefferson Holdings. In addition, new investors include World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Thirty Five Ventures, led by two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant and entrepreneur Rich Kleinman, Wheelhouse Entertainment, and Pomp Investments.
“With the support and uses of our extraordinary investors’ capital, our focus is on hiring across several strategic business units, growing our brand presence at the youth level, as well as having a sharp focus on improving our player experience by way of enhanced workers comp package, larger incentive plans, marketing addendums, and off-season programming,” said Co-Founder and CEO Michael Rabil.
You can read more about the funding round via Bloomberg here.
I’ve written about the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) several times now. So I’ll spare long-time readers the repetitive information. But for anyone that might be new here (welcome!), here’s a quick summary of the high-level facts:
Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) Fast Facts
The PLL was founded in 2018 by brothers Mike and Paul Rabil
It was a direct competitor to the existing Major League Lacrosse (MLL), and they raised venture capital to offer compensation that the sport had never seen — full-time salaries, health care coverage, players get equity, and more.
The PLL operates under a single entity structure, meaning it controls all teams, players, and business operations. And in December 2020, after just two years of operation, the PLL merged with the MLL, absorbing the entire league to form one pro outdoor lacrosse league and expanding the PLL from 7 to 8 teams.
Existing investors include billionaire Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai, The Raine Group, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), The Chernin Group, The Kraft Group (Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft), Arctos Sports Partners, and others.
Alright, now that we got that out of the way. Let’s talk about the investment thesis.
The part that excites me most about the PLL is not necessarily the market they are attacking. Sure, I love sports, the total addressable market is large and growing, and it’s the ultimate passion area for consumers. But more so, I think the PLL is setting the standard for how the best professional sports leagues will operate in the future.
This all starts with a great product, and the PLL has that. They raised capital to create compensation packages that attracted the best talent, and they changed how the sport is broadcast—removing wide-angled cameras, shortening the field of play, reducing the shot clock, using yellow balls instead of white, and even adding intra-game interviews with players after goals. But the secret sauce is their content strategy.
The PLL is a media company. They create content 24/7, 365, and leverage game, team, and player narratives to drive engagement across the sports landscape. For example, look at their social media numbers. The PLL is uploading more than 400 posts per weekend. They have full game highlights available on mobile within 30 minutes of the final whistle. They are doing hundreds of millions of impressions on social media annually, and on a per follower basis, they have the most engaged social media audience in all of sports — better than the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, and UFC.
But that social distribution strategy was just the beginning. Now that the PLL has attention, they are monetizing and building upon it. The league has significantly grown sponsorship revenue each season, working with blue-chip partners like Gatorade, Ticketmaster, Adidas, DraftKings, Bose, Vineyard Vines, and CashApp.
And more importantly, the PLL signed a four-year, eight-figure broadcast deal with ESPN earlier this year. That puts all 47 PLL games in 100 million-plus households globally via ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN+, and the increased distribution is already paying off — the PLL averaged 452,000 viewers for a game in June on ABC, setting a new record for the largest audience ever to watch an outdoor lacrosse game.
So while raising another funding round is just another step in this process, I’m excited about teaming up with the PLL to build America’s next great major professional sports league. Mike and Paul Rabil are excellent entrepreneurs, and they have surrounded themselves with an incredible team that is solely focused on this mission.
I’m just pumped to be a part of it, and my guess is that this is just the beginning.
I hope everyone has a great day. We’ll talk when I get back on August 1st.
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