SBD/Issue 172/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

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  • NBA Might Love LeBron-Kobe Finals, But Would League Sponsors?

    Bryant, James Endorse Nike, Vitaminwater,
    But Rivals Adidas, Gatorade Sponsor NBA
    The NBA's "dream Finals matchup" of LeBron James and the Cavaliers against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers would "result in massive buzz, bigger TV ratings -- and a nightmare for two of its biggest sponsors, Adidas and Gatorade," according to Jeremy Mullman of AD AGE. adidas and Gatorade are both league sponsors, while James and Bryant are the "two most prominent endorsers of their archrivals, Nike and Coca Cola's Glaceau." Glaceau's Vitaminwater has been airing a spot featuring fans "bickering over which player is superior and inviting viewers to follow the 'Great Debate' on Facebook," while Nike is airing a series of ads featuring "Muppet-like likenesses of the two." Mullman noted if both James and Bryant "manage to lead their teams to the NBA Finals, as expected, those efforts will likely be magnified exponentially by a media narrative that's likely to obsess over all things Kobe and LeBron." Meanwhile, Magic C Dwight Howard is an adidas endorser, and Leverage Agency CEO Ben Sturner said, "I guarantee you that Adidas is rooting for Orlando" (, 5/22).'s Steve Aschburner wrote the NBA wants a Lakers-Cavaliers Finals because it would "mean fat ratings for its game telecasts and an easy boost in jersey sales and global popularity." ABC and ESPN want the matchup because "those ratings points can translate into advertising dollars." Meanwhile, sponsors desire it because the "money they spend on commercial time (and big endorsement fees to [Bryant and James] in particular) more likely will be returned to them, plus, in sales of sneakers and vitamin-laced bottled water" (, 5/26).

    PUPPET MADNESS: The Magic defeated the Cavs 116-114 in overtime last night to take a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, and in Orlando, Mike Bianchi writes Howard "will finally begin to be treated like the superstar he is" with a conference title. Bianchi: "This is the only way Nike will know it should have locked up Dwight years ago, put him in that puppet commercial." Howard prior to Game Four closed a blog entry on his Web site with, "I guess I gotta go watch another one of these LeBron and Kobe commercials on TV" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/27). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay wrote the Magic beating the Cavs is "not supposed to happen." Gay: "Think of poor Nike. They've committed millions of dollars to that fancy ad campaign featuring trash-talking puppets of LeBron and Kobe Bryant. They don't have enough felt to stitch together a trash-talking Dwight Howard puppet" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/26). Meanwhile, with the Nuggets-Lakers Western Conference Finals series tied at 2-2,'s Jay Mariotti said, "Memo to the Vitaminwater and Nike people. What about [Nuggets F] Carmelo Anthony? It's Kobe versus LeBron, the Nike puppets. Where's the Carmelo puppet?" ("Around the Horn," ESPN, 5/22). CNBC's Darren Rovell reports Vitaminwater execs "are scrambling to figure out how to update their Kobe vs. LeBron spot" if their clubs fail to advance to the NBA Finals. If Magic face the Nuggets in the Finals, Vitaminwater is expected "to utilize both Howard and [Nuggets G Chauncey] Billups in some sort of spot" (, 5/27). Anthony said of a Nuggets-Magic Finals, "That would make a lot of people really mad" (SI, 6/1 issue).

    James Guarded Against Cramps Before Game
    Two, But Is That Vitaminwater He's Drinking?
    CRAMP-ING HIS STYLE: TNT's Craig Sager during Friday's Magic-Cavaliers Eastern Conference Final Game Two noted James suffered from dehydration at the end of Game One, and "to make sure everything went well, the ballboys had three bottles of fluids for his pregame ritual" ahead of Game Two. James "drank those three bottles within two-and-a-half minutes" three hours before the game. Footage was shown of James shooting before the game, and the three bottles included two Gatorade bottles and one water bottle from Coca-Cola's Dasani brand ("Magic-Cavaliers," TNT, 5/22). James said prior to Game Two, "I never drink Gatorade. Just Vitaminwater" (THE DAILY).

    LEBRON LOVE: The ORLANDO SENTINEL's Bianchi Monday wrote under the header, "LeBron James Hype Is Out Of Control." James hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer during Friday's Game Two, but "from listening to all the hoopla, you'd think it was the greatest shot since William Tell split the apple sitting atop his son's head." Bianchi: "Don't get me wrong, this is not LeBron's fault. He is an exceptional player, but the fawning fans, media and refs are making everybody sick of him. A classic case of LeBron LeBurnout. And if you haven't caught it, it's only because you haven't turned on ESPN since his buzzer-beater in Game 2. From hearing the commentators coo over him, you'd have thought LeBron had just scored the winning goal for the 1980 U.S. hockey team" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/25). In St. Petersburg, John Romano writes James has the "TV commercials, the scoring title and the MVP award. ... He may even have traces of Michael Jordan in his basketball DNA." Romano: "But, the reality is, until James wins an NBA title, it looks like so much decoration" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 5/27).

    DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC? In West Palm Beach, Chris Perkins reported the Magic for Sunday's Cavaliers-Magic Game Three at Amway Arena "put blue T-shirts on the seats in one half of the arena and white T-shirts on the seats in the other half to create a blue-white scene." The effect "wasn't as cool as the idea, but it was a good effort" (, 5/24).

  • Quoth The Ravens, Jackpot? Club The Latest In Lotto Tix Talks

    Ravens Logo May Be Placed On Maryland
    Scratch-Off Tickets For First Time
    The Ravens are "huddling with Maryland Lottery officials over placing the team's logo for the first time on scratch-off tickets," according to Mike Klingaman of the Baltimore SUN. The amount that the Ravens would make "would depend on their deal with the Maryland Lottery." After NFL owners last week voted to allow teams to partner with lotteries, the Patriots Thursday reached an agreement with the Massachusetts State Lottery to "put their logo on instant tickets next season," and the Redskins Friday "did the same" with the Virginia Lottery. NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said that "other clubs figure to follow suit." Aiello: "The change in policy was approved 32-0 (by NFL owners), so you can expect to see more (deals) soon." Klingaman noted the Orioles likely "would be watching with interest" if the Ravens reach a deal. Orioles Dir of PR Monica Barlow: "We've never had our logo on scratch-off tickets, though several other (baseball) clubs do so" (Baltimore SUN, 5/23). The Redskins' deal with the Virginia Lottery includes a team-themed scratch-off ticket to be launched in conjunction with the '09 NFL season. Redskins-themed tickets will be offered at all lottery retailers throughout Virginia, marking the first time the Virginia Lottery has offered such a ticket. Details of the ticket will be announced June 8 at Redskins Park (Virginia Lottery).

    CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS:'s Peter King wrote, "It's ludicrous the NFL draws such a hard line against gambling in a state -- like it is in Delaware right now -- and at the same time the league is making deals with states around Delaware to put team logos on lottery tickets. I know one form of gambling is illegal (in 49 states) and the other is legal countrywide. But the rush to put your helmet on an instant-lottery game, as the Patriots did last week, quite literally on the same day the league had lawyers in Delaware arguing against sports gambling is somewhere between ridiculously ill-timed and totally disingenuous" (, 5/25).'s Ray Ratto wrote under the header, "Lotto Luck Trying To Get NFL To Admit Hypocrisy." The NFL "might try to fight the next state that tries" to legalize sports betting, but if the league "couldn't break down Delaware, what chance does it have against a state you can find on a map?" The NFL, "faced with defeat," did the "only thing enterprising money-grubbers can do -- it jumped in, declared victory, and started cutting deals with the popular regressive tax known as the state lottery." The league "can no longer make a convincing argument against gambling that the state profits by, except the argument that they should be the only ones to profit from gambling on their sport" (, 5/25). The AP's Tim Dahlberg wrote, "Interesting that the NFL has no moral qualms about making money off people who have no clue about how high the odds are stacked against them. But it does have issues with people betting $20 on the outcome of one of its games when they have a decent likelihood of winning the bet" (AP, 5/23).

  • Stay In The Game: EA Sports To Be Presenting Partner Of NBA Draft

    The NBA has expanded its long-term relationship with EA Sports in which the videogame publisher will become the presenting partner of the '09 Draft, set for June 25 in N.Y. EA Sports will use the event to unveil the cover athlete for "NBA Live 10," the latest version of its annual basketball simulation title scheduled for a fall release. In addition to the branding for the draft, EA will also gain integration on and the league’s other digital assets, and the company will install gaming kiosks around the Wamu Theater at MSG, where the draft will be held. Online content plans include the creation of an EA Sports virtual green room that will provide behind-the-scenes coverage of likely draftees. The NBA-EA Sports partnership dates to '91, and EA Sports has also been the presenting partner of the NBA Europe Live tour since its creation three years ago.

  • Plane Dealer: Etihad Airways To Be Shirt Sponsor Of Man City

    Manchester City Has Reached Three-Year
    Shirt Sponsorship Deal With Etihad Airways
    EPL club Manchester City has reached a "new three-year shirt sponsorship deal" with Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to Richard Morris of CRAIN'S MANCHESTER BUSINESS. The deal sees Etihad take over for U.K.-based travel company Thomas Cook and is "believed to be worth [US$47.8M] over four years." The partnership will "include team tours to the UAE and South Africa and see investment in community schemes in the Emirates and East Manchester." The shirt will be first worn by the club "during a pre-season tour to South Africa in July" (, 5/26). TRAVELWEEKLY's Edward Robertson noted though Thomas Cook's shirt sponsorship deal, which ran for six seasons, has ended, Manchester City fans will "still receive discounts from the Thomas Cook Holiday Club" (, 5/26).

    IN THE SPOTLIGHT: BLOOMBERG NEWS' Tariq Panja noted with EPL club Manchester United playing in today's UEFA Champions League Final, the club "may use the opportunity to grab more than $90[M] from a new shirt sponsor." AIG "won't renew" its four-year, $87.7M contract beyond the '09-10 season, but Brand Rapport Dir Nigel Currie said that ManU's next shirt sponsor "may pay more." Currie: "Any brand marketing director would be drooling over the opportunity" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 5/26).

  • Wheels & Deals: Auto Club Speedway Unveils Tuesday Ticket Promo

    Auto Club Speedway Will Offer Ticket Initiatives
    Geared Around Tuesdays This Summer
    Auto Club Speedway in California yesterday unveiled a new ticket initiative geared around Tuesdays. Beginning June 2 through the summer, $35 tickets bought on Tuesdays for the October Sprint Cup Series Pepsi 500 race will come with an unexpected gift. In June, ticket buyers on Tuesdays will receive free ice cream at the race, in honor of June’s “Dairy Month.” In July, to celebrate the July 30 “Cheesecake Day,” ticket buyers on Tuesdays will also get a coupon for a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. And in August, the month infamously known for its Aug. 8 “Sneak zucchini onto your neighbor’s porch day,” buy a $35 ticket on a Tuesday and receive a zucchini in the mail from Auto Club Speedway (Michael Smith, SportsBusiness Journal).

    FIT FOR A KING: Richard Petty Motorsports co-Owner Richard Petty and A-B last week launched a new responsibility campaign aimed at reminding fans to use a designated drivers. Campaign materials, which include a print ad, outdoor board, T-shirt and sign-making materials, read "Designated Drivers ... Preferred By Kings Everywhere," and include the text "The King of the Road and the King of Beers remind you to choose a designated driver" (A-B). Budweiser's "more than 600 wholesalers nationwide will use those materials locally in their markets" (, 5/26).

    OPENING THE DOOR: A.J. Foyt Racing announced that driver Paul Tracy will replace the injured Vitor Meira in Sunday's ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt 225 at the Milwaukee Mile after Meira suffered two broken vertebrae in a crash at the Indy 500 (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/27)....Penske Racing Owner Roger Penske said that his team will field driver Will Power, who raced for the team at the Indy 500 and finished fifth, "in additional races this season." However, that will not include Sunday's race (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/26).

    WANT TO BE A PART OF IT: Online vehicle remarketer Copart is expanding its sponsorship with Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) to include primary sponsorship of the team's NASCAR Nationwide Series No. 33 Chevrolet for seven races this season. Also, Copart will title sponsor the June 19 Camping World Truck Series event at Milwaukee Mile, now known as the Copart 200. The deal, an extension of Copart's relationship with KHI, marks the company's first NASCAR event entitlement (THE DAILY).

  • Marketplace Roundup

    In Memphis, Marlon Morgan reports Cellular South has "become an official partner of the St. Jude Classic" this year. Officials for the PGA Tour event yesterday announced that Cellular South has signed a one-year sponsorship agreement to be the "official wireless provider" of the June 8-14 tournament. Cellular South also will serve as the "title sponsor of the tournament's June 10 pro-am." The company also "will donate $1,000 to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital for every eagle made during" the tournament (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 5/27).

    Polo Introduces "Create Your Own
    Tournament Golf Polo"
    WHAT TO WEAR:'s Woody Hochswender reported Polo has introduced "Create Your Own Tournament Golf Polo," a "feature that lets you choose from 10 body colors and two chest embroidery designs: the famous polo pony or your own initials." The Polo golf shirts, "made of breathable pinpoint cotton mesh, can thus be tailored to your personal [aesthetic] requirements." To view the shirt "in advance of how it will look, you can use their website to model your choices electronically on Davis Love III, a Ralph Lauren-sponsored golfer." The shirts cost $85 (, 5/22).

    JUST DO IT: The ST. LOUIS BUSINESS JOURNAL's Christopher Tritto reported Nike is "opening a new store Saturday in downtown St. Louis in the former home" of the Int'l Bowling Museum & HOF near Busch Stadium. The store "hopes to cash in on the influx of visitors expected when St. Louis hosts" the MLB All-Star Game on July 14. Sportservice Regional Manager Dan Fetcho, whose company will help operate the store, said that Nike "will use about 2,500 to 3,000 square feet of space and is investing 'six figures' into the store's build-out" (, 5/26).

    I SEE YOU: The Celtics and Massachusetts-based OmniPresence last week signed a partnership that will make OmniPresence the Celtics' official video conferencing and audio visual solutions partner (, 5/22).

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