SBD/January 21, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Bears Prep Sponsor, Online Activation Around NFC Championship Game

The NFL conference championship games Sunday represent the last NFL home games of the season, so host teams are busily preparing sponsorship activation plans. At Chicago’s Soldier Field, the Bears host the Packers for the 182nd time overall but just the second time in the playoffs. Playoff sponsors for the Bears are U.S. Cellular, the Chicago Tribune, Jewel-Osco and Comcast. All will have their name on an NFC Championship rally towel that will be given to all fans at the game. Bears Senior Dir of Sales & Marketing Chris Hibbs said the team’s playoff sponsors are reprising an earlier pair of online contests, offering game tickets and other prizes. One is a straight enter-to-win on the Bears’ official website, while the other is a social media play via Facebook in which fans submit photos which are voted on. Fans could increase their chances of winning through special codes provided by sponsors on their websites. Since winning their NFC Divisional game against the Seahawks last weekend, over 100,000 have entered the contests with almost 20,000 of those entries generated by the sponsor codes. "The biggest challenge now is trying to manage all the companies trying to trade off of our IP rights that aren’t sponsors," said Hibbs. The Bears’ postseason success should also help as the team looks to renew its wireless deal with U.S. Cellular and replace top-level "Hall of Fame" sponsor Staples, which is out after seven years as it pulls out of sports almost entirely.

TOWEL POWER: In deference to its status as the home of the rally towel, the Steelers are the only team that will never give them away. However, a 90-second tribute to the "Terrible Towel" will be shown on the Heinz Field video boards. Steelers Merchandising Manager Tim Carey said that if the Steelers win Sunday’s AFC Championship against the Jets, "we’ll order several hundred thousand" Super Bowl-specific "Terrible Towels." Many licensees are predicting an all-time high in licensed Super Bowl merchandise sales, regardless of which teams qualify. Carey said he is also optimistic, since his team’s Division Championship items sold at about three times more than they did during the Steelers’ ‘08 championship run.
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