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Buick Motor Division announced that it will retain sponsorship of the Buick Invitational PGA Tour tournament through 2002. Buick assumed title sponsorship of the event, played at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, CA, in '92 (Buick). HEY, THEY CAN PLAY: The LPGA will launch its first agency-created ad campaign, which will begin airing today during ESPN's coverage of the Standard Register Ping tournament. TV and print ads, from Dallas-based DDB Needham, will use the tag, "Hey, we can play" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/19)....In GOLFWEEK, Lynn Henning reports that consumer response to Spalding's new System C and System T Top-Flite golf balls -- marketed around Callaway and Taylor Made metalwoods, respectively -- "has been much heavier than Top-Flite had imagined." Spalding Sports' Kevin Martin said its '98 System sales projection "was reached within three days of the ball's release, and that orders then doubled during the ensuing three weeks" (GOLFWEEK, 3/14 issue).
NJ-based Integrated Sports Int'l has been retained by General Mills (GMI) to serve as GMI's licensing rep for its Wheaties brand on non-food products (ISI)....Phil Rizzuto and Jim Lampley will appear in TV ads and infomercials for NY-based National Finance Corp. lending division (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/19)....The marketing of Canada's Don Cherry is examined by Shawna Richer in the Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, who writes that Cherry is "the most ubiquitous media figure in Canada." Richer reports that Cherry "spurns many more endorsement offers than he accepts" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 3/19)....ESPN Latin America added Chrysler to its advertising roster. The deal includes sponsorship of ESPN's Spanish League Football's '98-99 season, and partnership in consumer promos in Brazil and Argentina (ESPN Int'l).
Sara Lee Corp.'s Champion Products unit "is re- entering" the athletic footwear market in a licensing arrangement announced yesterday with Woolworth Corp., according to George Lazarus of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Under the alliance, Woolworth will design, manufacture and retail running, basketball, tennis, cross-training and football shoes under the Champion brand name. The line will be available at retail in July or August. The deal's "big attraction" is that the Champion footwear line will be sold "exclusively through Woolworth's Foot Locker and Champs Sports retail chains, which number 2,000 and 650, respectively." Asked if there might be a celebrity endorsing the new line, Champion President Michael Flatow said there's nothing "immediate": "There's only one celebrity who matters in footwear (Michael Jordan) and he's already taken" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/19). For more on the footwear category, see (#17) and (#18).
Julius Erving and Joe Washington, founder of Washington-Erving Motorsports, are "finding life at the racetrack a little more difficult than anticipated," according to Erik Arneson of USA TODAY. While their Grand National team is "up and running," the formation of a NASCAR Winston Cup team "has been indefinitely stalled." Washington-Erving has yet to secure a sponsor and its driver, Rich Bickle, has been "vocal" in his disillusionment with the organization. Bickle: "They said they had $6 million and were ready to go racing. Truth was, they didn't have anything." Washington-Erving President Kathy Thompson: "We still have companies interested; I think maybe we can set something up for about five races to get things rolling this season. We still hope to be ready for a full schedule in 1999." Arneson reported that Washington-Erving's Grand National sponsor, Dr Pepper, "says it is happy with its relationship with Washington-Erving" (USA TODAY, 3/18). NOTES: In Atlanta, Tom McCollister reports that Darrell Waltrip will sell his race team after Sunday's race at Darlington Motor Speedway. Waltrip: "I've spent $1 million out of my own pocket so far this season, and I can't keep doing that" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/19)....Ralph Sanchez sold his remaining 10% stake in the Miami-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex to MI-based Penske Motorsports and FL- based Int'l Speedway Corp. The two companies bought 80% of the track last year (SPEEDNET, 3/18)....In Hartford, Lori Riley profiles World Sports Enterprises President Patti Wheeler, whose company handles TV production of racing events. Many women are now getting involved in motorsports, "mostly behind the scenes in marketing and promotions, television and within NASCAR" (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/19).