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With the NFL "struggling to net an increase in a soft- drink category that has been its cash cow, NFL owners ... may finally be ready to address the question of whether" the league "should fundamentally change the way it sells corporate sponsorships," according to Terry Lefton of BRANDWEEK. Recent "industry buzz" has incumbent Coca-Cola offering $18M and Pepsi $14-15M, "but with little enthusiasm," for the category. And while NFLP Senior Dir of Corporate Sponsorships Steve Phelps said that fast-food negotiations have been "put aside" pending a soda deal, "insiders say Taco Bell balked" at the $10M price tag the league was "hoping to get from incumbent McDonald's." Without being specific, Phelps said that those numbers have changed and added, "we will land a soft-drink deal within a month, and we will get an increase if we grant certain rights." Strike Ten VP/Marketing John Sohigian on the NFL's negotiations: "Rights fees are going down as far as pure cash, so to get an increase, the value has to go up significantly." MLS Exec VP Randy Bernstein: "Sponsors don't care so much about logo exposure, it is their caseload and are you moving that?" (Terry Lefton, BRANDWEEK, 3/23). HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH? Lefton adds that the "larger issue" is whether the NFL should expect rights fee increases "when sponsors may see as much as a 30% increase in the cost of advertising on NFL games." Sprint VP/Advertising & Sponsorships Tim Kelly, on the $24M annual rights the company pays: "I'm pretty confident in telling you we won't be able to buy much more." The NFL has 17 categories up for renewal, and Phelps said, "We are going to have a record year as far as renewal percentage as well as renewal dollars and activation." Lefton adds that the value of the TV and Sprint deals "may have also convinced ownership that there is similar revenue potential in corporate sponsorship." IMG's Gary Jacobus, a former NFLP Sales Exec, said, "Some owners think they should be getting that (amount) in every big category. It just can't be done" (BRANDWEEK, 3/23).
SPONSOR SEARCH: The Detroit Free Press Int'l Marathon Presented by M-CARE is searching for a title sponsor. The October 16-18 event is managed and operated by IMG (IMG). NOTES: In AZ, D'Backs Manager Buck Showalter is starring in TV ads for Bank One. A future ad will include one that is tied to Bank One Ballpark's 8,000 tons of air conditioning. It will feature Showalter and D'Backs pitching coach Mark Connor wearing parkas (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/25)....NY-based ANC Sports Enterprises has signed multi- year agreements with the Braves, Dodgers, Devil Rays and Padres to serve as the exclusive supplier of rotating signage at their ballparks. ANC Sports now serves six MLB teams, and will work with the Dodgers in selling inventory for the signage (ANC Sports)....The MLBPA has licensed WA- based Pacific Trading Cards to create and distribute MLB player trading cards. The first product released under the new license will ship to retailers in May (MLBPA)....MA- based Woolf Associates has been retained by Boston College QB Matt Hasselbeck for representation (Woolf Associates). SOUTHERN MEN: The Southern League of Professional Baseball Clubs announced a new marketing partnership with FL-based AirTran Airlines that includes several advertising components, an AirTran home run/triple promo and presenting sponsorships. In addition, Southern Ford Dealers have been named title sponsor for the '98 Southern League All-Star Game June 22 in Mobile, AL (Southern League).
Fishing is a $108B-a-year industry "that marketers are turning into one of the hottest marketplaces" in the U.S., according to USA TODAY's J. Taylor Buckley in a "Money" section cover story. Mass marketers from GM to General Mills are now "solidly hooked," and companies from Northwest Airlines to Land O' Lakes "are writing checks of $250,000 and more just to be identified" as fishing event sponsors. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that 35.2 million recreational anglers spent $37.8B directly on fishing trips and gear in '96. Making those numbers "light up even brighter are the sport's demographics." Close to 11 million of the 35.2 anglers are ages 15 and younger, and about three quarters of them male, "an especially attractive group for marketers." Buckley calls General Mills' decision to put a pro fishing champ on a national Wheaties box "a breakthrough" that sends "a powerful message to mass marketers." General Mills joins a list of "nontraditional" sponsors that includes Coca-Cola, Fuji film and Citgo. Citgo even "shelved its usual regional promotion" tied to a PGA Tour event in Hartford, CT, this year in favor of one built around the Wal-Mart FLW bass tournament slated for June. Teamed with other tournament sponsors, Citgo will be giving away a truck, soft drinks and merchandise coupons redeemable at Wal-Mart (J. Taylor Buckley, USA TODAY, 3/25).