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Castrol North America announced that Spurs C David Robinson will be featured in its "Drive Hard to the NBA Finals" sweepstakes, which offers Grand Prize winners an all-expense paid trip for two to one game in the '98 or '99 NBA Finals. This will mark the first time that Castrol, an NBA sponsor since '93, will feature an NBA player in one of its promotions and Robinson will be featured on point-of- sale materials during the promos run (Castrol). ET TU, SHAQ FU? Shaquille O'Neal appears in a PSA this weekend during Sunday's Lakers-Knicks telecast on NBC. The PSA, produced by NBA Entertainment, highlights the Reading Is Fundamental campaign. The spot shows O'Neal reading a mystery novel, only to find that his dog, "Brick," has torn out the last page (Neal Travis, N.Y. POST, 2/27).
ESPN announced that Classic Sports Network's ad sales unit will be combined with ESPN's advertising sales department. Classic Sports was acquired by ESPN in October. ESPN's Advertising Sales Department now markets ESPN brands including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN SportsZone, ESPN Int'l and Classic Sports Network (ESPN).
Leo Burnett Co. "dropped out of a competition" to handle the account for the PGA Tour's World Golf Championships, according to George Lazarus of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Burnett cites a "conflict with another" PGA Tour group as its reason (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/27). MARKET-PING: In Toronto, Lorne Rubenstein examines the marketing efforts of AZ-based Karsten Manufacturing, which manufactures Ping equipment. Karsten has hired the VA-based Martin agency for advertising and promotion, and recently signed Bernhard Langer and Lee Westwood. Rubenstein: "And don't be surprised if the company soon announces an endorsement deal with Casey Martin." Karsten President & CEO John Solheim: "We didn't advertise at all in the 1980s but are doing that now. We are not where we want to be, but we intend to grow and to keep growing" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/27).
Serena Williams, who recently signed with Puma, said she will have "input" into what she will wear. Williams: "I told them I like the full dresses a little more than the skirts, so, it is just -- right now we are working on a lot of different designs so we are trying to get something together." Williams said the Puma deal will involve "sports and entertainment and we just want to bring something different to the game of tennis" (THE DAILY). OTHER NOTES: In Miami, Elaine Walker profiled New Balance and wrote, "While other athletic shoe manufacturers are struggling with stagnating sales, New Balance is riding a wave of popularity that has sent sales climbing at a double-digit pace" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/26)....Nike "is working" to move the March 25 launch of the new Air Jordans from a school day to a weekend after complaints from "educators nationwide." The likely new launch date is Saturday, March 28 (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 2/26)....ROLLING STONE's Eric Boehlert examines the corporate use of contemporary music in TV advertising, noting Nike's use of the Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony." Boehlert: "Why the mad rush from Madison Avenue? Clients, eager for any sort of marketing edge, want the authenticity and star association that hit songs deliver." Levi's Senior Ad Manager Joe Townsend: "If we can show kids we're cool, we have a step up." Boehlert writes that the "going rate" for licensing of a "top pop song" is $200,000 to $400,000 (ROLLING STONE, 3/19 issue).