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VA-based LCI Int'l signed a three-year deal with a joint option to become the official long distance provider of the LPGA, the company's first major women's sports sponsorship. LCI will provide prepaid calling cards to LPGA Tour players; long distance service to the LPGA and the LPGA Tournament Sponsors Assoc.; have on-site sponsorship of selected LPGA events; hold category-exclusive TV ad rights for selected events and on-site sponsorship and TV advertising for the '98 Solheim Cup in Dublin, OH (LPGA). THEY CAN PLAY, AGAIN AND AGAIN: Helen Alfredsson, Karrie Webb, Annika Sorenstam and Kelly Robbins will star in three, 30-second TV spots that will debut during CBS's coverage of the Mercury Titleholders Championship this weekend. The spots, by DDB Needham, were directed by Joe Pytka and feature the tag, "Hey, we can play." One spot, "Rivalry," opens with Sorenstam and Webb discussing their rivalry and their non-combative quotes are juxtaposed with scenes showing Sorenstam drawing a mustache on Webb's publicity poster, and Webb keeping a Sorenstam voodoo doll in her locker. These spots, along with earlier ones featuring Nancy Lopez and Michelle McGann, will air during LPGA telecasts on CBS, ABC, NBC, ESPN, ESPN2, The Golf Channel and Lifetime. A print campaign also runs (LPGA). GLOBAL GOLFING: In Tampa, Mick Elliott profiles the LPGA and writes that, "For all the visionary talk by the men's tours, it is the LPGA that has proved itself the real global stage," with 74 foreign golfers representing 16 countries active on the Tour (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 4/30).
MORE WITH MICK: N.Y. POST gossip columnist Neal Travis reports that ICM, which recently signed to rep Mickey Mantle's widow and three sons in future entertainment deals, "has no handle" on Mantle's "longtime mistress and agent," Greer Johnson, who is "well along with her own book about life with The Mick." Travis adds that Greer's book is attracting "film and TV interest" (N.Y. POST, 4/30). NOTES: In Ft. Worth, Jimmy Burch reports that negotiations "are ongoing" to extend MasterCard's title sponsorship of the PGA Tour's Colonial tournament. MasterCard is in its final year as title sponsor, with a one-year option to extend the pact to '99 (STAR-TELEGRAM, 4/30)....Buick renewed its commitment to the Buick Open, announcing that the tournament will continue at Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club in Grand Blanc, MI, through 2002 (Buick)....Budweiser's Louie the Lizard will be featured on the car of NHRA Top Fuel dragster Kenny Bernstein during the Lone Star Nationals this weekend at Texas Motorplex (USA TODAY, 4/30)....Wong Doody won the Grandy Award at the 34th annual Int'l Andy Awards for creativity for a TV campaign for the Sonics. Doody won $50,000 (N.Y. TIMES, 4/30)....As part of his settlement with former NBA star Kareem Abdul- Jabbar, Dolphins RB Karim Abdul-Jabbar will be know as "Abdul" for the purposes of commercialism (Mult., 4/30).
Several retailers told SPORTING GOODS BUSINESS' Andy Bernstein that Nike replica team jerseys "consistently kept pace with the competition despite" a price difference that saw its jerseys sell for around $15 more than its competitors at retail. Nike will lower the price of its NFL replicas for fall '98. Gaylan's reported that Nike's college jerseys were "among its best-selling licensed products." Bernstein writes, however, that "it's clear that Nike is far from being an industry leader overall. In fact, insiders tell SGB that Nike failed to meet its NFL's minimum royalty requirement last season." Nike OTS Licensed Division Dir Bruce Kaplan declined to comment on the payment....In other news, retailers tell SGB's Mark Tedeschi that they are "bewildered by all the negative attention" Nike has received. City Sports footwear buyer Sean O'Brien said that Nike's basketball apparel "hasn't been that strong and cross training has been slow, but that's industry wide, not just Nike. Their running has been huge this spring." The Finish Line Senior VP Joe Wood said Nike made up about 66-67% of the companies business last year, "now they are about" 60%. Woods: "There is a lot more bad press than reality" (SPORTING GOODS BUSINESS, 4/15 issue). NOTES: PA-based Mitchell & Ness, manufacturers of nostalgic baseball apparel, will "soon join" the NBA ranks producing replica NBA uniforms. Mitchell & Ness has been working with the NBA to license the Back Court Collection, a tribute to the NBA's 50-year history. The line will launch at NSGA show this year....Bob's Stores President & CEO Marc Balmuth is featured in a Q&A. Balmuth, on the number of brands consumers can see at Bob's Stores: "Just about everything may be stepping out too far, but I think we're giving the brands a lot of space and I think that we have most of the brands out there that are exciting to the consumer. So in the younger businesses, I think we're making as strong a statement as anybody" (SGB, 4/15).
In its new partnership with the U.S. Soccer Federation, IMG will distribute the "friendly" games that men's and women's USSF teams play against other countries between World Cup matches, and no World Cup or MLS games will be included, according to Steve Donohue of ELECTRONIC MEDIA. In discussing the deal, IMG Senior Exec VP Bob Cain said, "It's hard to think that it (soccer) will do anything but keep growing. The dividend will start paying years from now." As part of the agreement, IMG will distribute at least 10 hours of children's soccer programming, with Nickelodeon as a "potential cable carrier." IMG hopes to "build the sport by attracting younger demographics." ESPN VP/Programming Steve Risser said that the net, which has a deal with the USSF that expires this year, sees soccer as a "growth sport," but "isn't ready to commit to buying more than 14 games each year." IMG is "targeting" Lifetime as a "solid candidate" to air women's games. ESPN's Risser said that another challenge is scheduling, as the USSF schedules its games 60 days in advance, while ESPN "tries to program" its schedule 90 days in advance (ELECTRONIC MEDIA, 4/27).