Game On! Market Conditions Right for Insurers in Sports, Entertainment Segment

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by Amy O'Connor

Americans love their sports and entertainment, and right now so does the insurance industry. Insurers are renewing their focus on this class where they see potential, even in the midst of what seems like a never-ending soft market.

“This market is not being hit the same as other commercial markets, but there is increased attention and heightened competition,” says Terry Rybicki, national sales executive for Fireman’s Fund’s Entertainment Division.

Rybicki says the level of competition depends on the size of the risk.

“When it comes to less complex or smaller accounts, many carriers are competing by being more price sensitive for clients,” he says. “But what I am seeing for marquis accounts are a lot of new entrants are being excluded because they don’t have the experience or desired expertise.”

Fireman’s Fund recently expanded its entertainment capabilities in Canada with the creation of a new underwriting team. Rybicki says Fireman’s Fund has been working in the neighbor country through its parent-company Allianz, but wanted to further grow and strengthen its current relationships.

The carrier will focus on its core areas including film, DICE (documentaries, industrial films, commercials and educational films), TV, live touring and special music events in Canada. In general, its entertainment division has dabbled in the sports arena, says Rybicki, but hasn’t made a full commitment, yet. “We are always looking at new opportunities, but we want to make sure we have the right expertise before we expand into it,” says Rybicki.

On the sports side, new entrant Sports Insurance Specialists (SIS) has found success in the competitive soft market conditions. The company launched last August and SIS President Jeff Ladd had hoped to bring in between $2 million and $3 million in premium in the company’s first year, which it will likely surpass as he says it has logged $1.6 million in premium since January.

“We have had quite a bit of demand. The key is once you get [customers] in, you have to take care of them and then they tell their friends and you hope to grow that way,” says Ladd.

Ladd says he has noticed things are firming up for unique risks like auto racing or those with an uncommon element, such as a speedway with a snow-park, which have become more difficult to get coverage for.

“In the past it was not a problem to get those covered,” he says. “I think it’s because of how long the market has been soft. Some of the markets don’t have enough share of a specialty niche and it’s hard for them to stay in based on the pricing. Everything has been beat up.”

Ladd says SIS will also grow through agency acquisitions, such as the one it completed last fall of an Indianapolis agency focused on motor sports. He says the market hardening should bring about more opportunities for his young agency to acquire others.

SIS is also getting ready to go into other sporting avenues, including golf for private and public clubs and PGA tournaments. Ladd says SIS is just focused on sports right now but is looking into other opportunities on the entertainment side.

Jerid Schmickle, senior vice president of NAS Insurance’s new Entertainment and Sports Division in Minneapolis, Minn., says the company started in this segment because it wanted to expand into other specialty lines and utilize its relationships with Lloyd’s of London.

The division is targeting risks in the entertainment, hospitality, media and sports industries. It offers general and excess liability, as well as contingency coverages like cancellation and non-appearance, and sports promotions. Later in the year it plans to add inland marine coverage for entertainment equipment and instruments, and accident and medical coverage.

“My facility isn’t going to compete against bigger carriers,” says Schmickle. “We are looking for more unique risks that are looking for specific solutions for their industry.”

Schmickle says there have been some pricing increases on certain lines and carriers that are jumping in and out of some classes, which he says has to do with severe incidents last year like stage collapses.

Schmickle says the entertainment and sports world is actually quite small, even if it is getting more attention right now.

“Most of the brokers are specialists and there are people that are stronger in certain areas- some are good at touring, some are good at certain events,” he says. “They all chase and have certain relationships with people that manage the business. Once you are in, it seems to be the same people, same brokers.”

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