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Kellogg USA will become title sponsor of Soccer In The Streets, a GA-based, non-profit dedicated to bringing soccer to the inner city. The Kellogg's Soccer In The Street program will be conducted in 13 cities (Kellogg's). MLS: MLS's new ad campaign from Dallas-based Dieste & Partners, "Lessons in Passion," was examined by Jerry Langdon in USA TODAY. He called the spots "pretty good. Particularly impressive is the 'Dancing' promo, set to Mambo music, with players making great faking moves and dribbling past defenders." There will be eight spots, half of which have been completed. The other half will be done by April (USA TODAY, 3/23)....BRANDWEEK's Terry Lefton reports that MLS is holding All-Star balloting at the 2,200 Kmart stores nationwide in a promo that also gets the league's licensed apparel "into mass retail for the first time." All-Star voting runs May 3-June 28 with ballots available in Kmart's Sports Center licensed apparel areas. Lefton adds that Kmart "gets the exclusive on MLS licensed apparel at mass merch for the rest of the year, while MLS gains access to one of the most desirable retail venues" (BRANDWEEK, 3/23).
BRANDWEEK NOTES: Terry Lefton reports that Service Merchandise will be the presenting sponsor for MLB's Home Run Derby during the All-Star Break, airing July 6 on ESPN. Service Merchandise's "foray into sports" is being run by new marketing exec Chuck Kremers, who led True Value into MLB, NASCAR and NFL sponsorships....Dorothy Hamill, Nancy Kerrigan and Nicole Bobek will appear in a print campaign for Aetna/U.S. Healthcare breaking this spring. It will promote heart health and warn about the high incidence of heart problems among women....While Bell Atlantic recently inked a sponsorship pact with the Atlantic 10 Conference, the company could not come to terms on a proposal to rename it the Bell Atlantic 10. The deal "would have cost two to three times the mid-six-figure deal" that was consummated, and the A-10 would have "become the first conference to sell its name"....Hershey has signed a two-year sponsorship deal with Strike Ten that gets it sponsorship of the National Family Bowling Tournament, access to the association's 6,000 bowling centers and promotional rights (BRANDWEEK, 3/23). NOTES: The WNBA's inaugural season "won gold" in the sports and entertainment category at the American Marketing Association's Edison Awards (AD AGE, 3/23 issue)....UT men's basketball coach Rick Majerus signed an exclusive rep agreement with IL-based Intersport Management for contract negotiations, endorsements and appearances (Intersport). ...In N.Y., Richard Wilner notes a source who said that Cablevision, which bought electronics chain Nobody Beats the Wiz, will renovate the stores and decorate the interiors with "classic" MSG sports photos (N.Y. POST, 3/24).
Nike "will slash its global marketing budget" by $100M for the FY starting June 1, "and over the next six months will re-evaluate its strategies," according to Jeff Jensen of AD AGE. Nike's '97 marketing budget was an estimated $891M. Nike Chair Phil Knight "holds marketing partly to blame for the company's recent woes" and will put its new "I can" campaign from Wieden & Kennedy up for "reassessment." Knight: "Our problem has not been too much marketing, but too much ineffective marketing" (AD AGE, 3/23 issue). FOOT SOLDIERS: In N.Y., Jennifer Steinhauer examines whether a slowdown of Nike sales will impact Woolworth's Foot Locker stores. Analysts estimate that Woolworth controls about 16% of the U.S. athletic footwear market, and about 40% of the market for athletic shoes over $40. At Foot Locker stores, investors estimate that footwear makes up roughly 75% of the merchandise, with Nike representing 30-50% of that category (N.Y. TIMES, 3/24).
Nike's earnings reductions and recent layoffs are examined in this week's news magazines. In TIME, Bill Saporito writes under the header, "Can Nike Get Unstuck?" Saporito: "Nike is a multibillion-dollar monster finding its size awkward." Nike Chair Phil Knight's "challenge is to re-create the essence of the outfit he first operated out of the trunk of his car." Nike "is reassessing everything, from the way it sells to retailers to the number of times the famous swoosh appears on products and in advertising. It will try to act smaller by developing categories such as golf, soccer, and women's as separate business units." Knight: "Basically, our culture, and our style, is to be a rebel, and we sort of enjoy doing that. Now that we've reached a certain size, there's a fine line between being a rebel and being a bully, and yeah, we have to walk that line." Saporito writes that despite "the pounding" it has taken, "Nike is still the force in athletics" (TIME, 3/30). REORGANIZATION: Nike will undergo "a holistic reorganization as it struggles with the very size of the company and what it stands for." Knight: "What we are today might by O.K. for a $3 billion company. It's not O.K. at 9." In reviewing its corporate image, Nike execs "reached an interesting conclusion: too many swooshes." Nike VP Mark Parker: "There has been a little bit of an internal backlash about just the number of swooshes that are out there." Saporito adds that Nike will "try to be more accessible" to consumers by continuing to develop subbrands, such as a golf division built around Tiger Woods and another line, Nike Classic Golf, that will target the country-club set. Saporito concludes that Knight "has written this year off," but by '99 he "expects to have new product, a new management structure and better press" (TIME, 3/30 issue). LOWERED COOL QUOTIENT? NEWSWEEK's Jolie Solomon writes that more than its negative press, "Nike's bigger problem is a 1990s marketing conundrum: can you be big and cool?" When Teenage Research Unlimited did its latest survey, 40% of kids named Nike as one of the "coolest" brands, down from 52% six months ago. But Solomon adds that Nike's "ace in the hole is Knight himself," who she describes as "charismatic and down to earth" (NEWSWEEK, 3/30 issue). In a sidebar, NEWSWEEK's Joshua Hammer reviews Michael Moore's new documentary, "The Big One." Knight "is the only CEO with the guts to go on camera, but he pays the price: he sheepishly admits he's never visited his company's Third World factories" (NEWSWEEK, 3/30 issue). ATHLETE'S FOOT? In U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT, William Holstein reports that Knight "remains deeply involved with Nike's athletes, which is one reason it will be hard for the company to cut back on its spending for sports events and sponsorships." But recently departed execs say that Knight's "preoccupation with his athletes, at the expense of shareholders and employees, is a serious problem." Former Nike CFO Robert Falcone said he urged Knight "to cut back on promotion and marketing costs to help offset declining sales. Instead, Knight decided to shuffle management to appease investors." Falcone: "All they had to do was not sign one soccer contract, and they could have saved hundreds of jobs" (U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT, 3/30 issue).