SBD/January 5, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

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  • EA Sports Reiterates Its Support Of Tiger Ahead Of Augusta Game

    Woods was aware, and supportive, of EA Sports' partnership with Augusta National

    EA Sports President Peter Moore said Tiger Woods is not being downplayed in the annual golf video game and that the publisher remains firmly behind the troubled golfer despite yesterday's high-profile announcement of Augusta National Golf Club becoming a central component of the upcoming version of "Tiger Woods PGA Tour." Woods is not featured on the cover art for the primary Wii, XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game, replaced as the central image by the iconic Masters flag, and sales of last year's iteration were down sharply compared to prior years. But Moore insisted they are not backing away from Woods, who has yet to win a PGA Tour event since his return last year from personal scandal. "Tiger remains very special to us, and no one should read anything into this," Moore said. "We've been together for 13 years, he's been aware of this relationship with Augusta National for some time now, and has been very supportive. He's delighted to share the stage." He added, "Obviously it was a difficult year last year, but you saw toward the end of the season Tiger starting to get back to his old ways. We all as both a sports industry and sports fans are hopeful he comes back in full force in 2011." Moore added he is "very optimistic" for a strong sales rebound with The Masters elements after the sluggish returns for last year's version. Woods will appear on the cover of an enhanced collector's version of the game for the PlayStation 3.

    PICTURE PERFECT: There are no immediate plans to feature Augusta National in either EA Sports' browser-based version of "Tiger Woods PGA Tour" that debuted last year or its new Facebook-based casual golf game, "PGA Tour Golf Challenge." A key reason for that is the extreme level of graphic fidelity and technology needed to recreate digitally the Augusta National course -- something currently available only through the gaming consoles. "Our ability to truly bring to life this iconic course was crucially important - and rightly so," Moore said. "There are people who can tell you if a single azalea is out of place." The laser scanning process needed to map Augusta National for the game, set to be released March 29, is more than two years in development, and will likely be used for other prominent golf courses (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

    DO YOU WANT TO KNOW A SECRET? KOTAKU.com's Owen Good reported while EA Sports and Augusta National had "been in agreement on bringing The Masters to a video game for several years, only when the course was perfected for presentation and playability would Augusta National approve its inclusion." "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12" Exec Producer Nick Wlodyka said that "pulling all of this together required an effort 'potentially more secret' than any sports game deal done before." Wlodyka: "We’ve been working on this for a number of years, and it’s been in discussions for even longer than that. It’s hard to believe we haven’t had a leak. But if people heard that we were working on it, they might think ‘No way,’ thinking if we ever were going to have The Masters, we would have had it by now" (KOTAKU.com, 1/4). Augusta National Chair Billy Payne "first raised the idea of The Masters being part of video games two years ago while expanding the multimedia aspect of the tournament's website" (AP, 1/4).

    Deal with EA Sports the latest effort by
    Augusta National to make itself more visible
    ON THE CUTTING EDGE? ESPN.com's Jason Sobel wrote this move is the "latest in a recent trend from Augusta National to not only grow the game globally, but make itself more visible." In recent years, The Masters has "been the first major shown in both high-definition and 3-D television, the first to offer live bonus coverage on the Internet and the first to allow free admission to all children under 16 accompanied by an adult." Each of those decisions has "helped the Masters appeal to a younger generation, and its inclusion in the video game continues along that pattern." Sobel: "Consider it a refreshing departure from the previous exclusivity of the course" (ESPN.com, 1/4). YAHOO SPORTS' Shane Bacon wrote, "It's a cool idea, and just shows that even Augusta National is becoming, dare I say, hip" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/4). GOLFWEEK.com's Adam Martin wrote Augusta National's "move into the video-game realm is an admirable move," and another "progressive move from an organization known best for its strict adherence to tradition." The inclusion in the "Tiger Woods" video game franchise will "help introduce golf to a younger audience," and at the same time "provides a much-needed boost to the Tiger video game franchise, which suffered a steep drop-off in sales in light of Woods’ personal struggles" (GOLFWEEK.com, 1/4).

    THE NEXT BEST THING TO BEING THERE: In Augusta, Scott Michaux writes, "While nothing can ever replace standing on the 12th tee during a Sunday of the Masters, we're all invited for a taste of the experience while helping grow the game at the same time. It's a win-win for everyone" (AUGUSTA CHRONICLE, 1/5). Golf Channel’s Gary Williams said Augusta National’s participation in the video game is “another great example of the evolution of this club with respect to its interaction with a fan base that not necessarily can get on the property.” Williams: “It is, without question, a genius stroke … by these gentlemen to understand that they are evolving and they are doing it at breakneck speed." Golf Channel’s Erik Kuselias: "This is more about the symbolism of Augusta, just sort of opening up and allowing everybody ... just a little bit more access so you can see exactly what it's like” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 1/5).

    BEST IS YET TO COME: TIME's Doug Aamoth noted the "Tiger Woods" game franchise has "had its ups and downs," but this upcoming version is "shaping up to be the most dynamite title in the series." EA Sports has "completely overhauled the audio presentation" of the game. Early iterations of the game with Gary McCord and David Feherty as announcers "were bright days," but the '12 game features Feherty "and none other than Jim Nantz himself." Aamoth: "It ought to be wonderful" (TIME.com, 1/4). USA TODAY's Mike Snider notes a new "Masters Moments" feature in the upcoming game "lets players attempt to repeat tournament highlights such as Woods' chip-in on No. 16 in 2005 and Arnold Palmer's eagle on No. 13 in 1958" (USA TODAY, 1/5).

    ALL FOR A GOOD CAUSE: Augusta National yesterday announced that its proceeds from the partnership with EA Sports will be used to help support a newly created Masters Tournament Foundation, which will invest in golf development programs around the world. Financial terms of the EA Sports-Augusta deal were not disclosed (Fisher). Meanwhile, Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter indicated that he "sees a sales boost of 200,000 or more thanks to the inclusion of Augusta National, and that works out to a $10-12 million boost to the top line for EA" ("InsideTrack With Deirdre Bolton and Erik Schatzker," Bloomberg TV, 1/5).

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  • Firestone Reportedly Might Not Return As '12 IndyCar Supplier

    Firestone is in final year of deal as the sole tire provider of IndyCar Series

    Firestone “could be leaving” the Izod IndyCar Series following the '11 season after serving as the series' "sole tire provider" since '02, according to Curt Cavin of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. Firestone is in “the final year of its IndyCar contract,” and a Dec. 31 deadline "to extend the deal beyond 2011 passed.” IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard yesterday acknowledged that “he is ‘definitely concerned’ even though negotiations continue.” Neither Bernard nor Bridgestone Americas Motorsports Exec Dir Al Speyer “would reveal particulars of the discussions, but it's believed to be tied to” Firestone’s overall marketing objectives. Speyer: "We have to look and compare all of our options, and motor sports is one of the many options out there. Maybe there are too many (options)." Speyer said that there is “no deadline for a decision, although IndyCar needs to know if it needs another tire manufacturer.” Cavin notes Firestone's interest in withdrawing is said to have "blindsided" IndyCar officials. Firestone “not only has an impeccable safety record in IndyCar, it is a strong promoter of the sport through race sponsorships and media buys.” If Firestone departs, “any manufacturer of tires will be considered, including Goodyear, Michelin, Cooper and Pirelli” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 1/5).

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  • Best Buy Re-Ups With RPM, Allmendinger For 24 Sprint Cup Races

    Best Buy announced a one-year extension of its sponsorship of Richard Petty Motorsports' No. 43 car driven by A.J. Allmendinger. The deal makes Best Buy the primary sponsor of the car for 24 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in '11. The company also will be the associate sponsor of RPM's No. 9 car driven by Marcos Ambrose. The deal extends Best Buy's relationship with Allmendinger into a second year. A Best Buy spokesperson declined to discuss terms of the new deal, but the company's '10 agreement with Allmendinger was valued at $10M. The '11 deal comes a month after RPM was bought by Petty, Medallion Financial's Andrew Murstein and DGB Investments' Doug Bergeron (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal). SPORTING NEWS' Reid Spencer noted Best Buy also will serve as Allmendinger’s primary sponsor for two non-points events: the Gatorade Duel 150 qualifying race at Daytona next month "and the Sprint Showdown and/or Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte in May, depending on eligibility" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 1/4). Best Buy Senior VP/Marketing Drew Panayiotou in a statement said, "We will be doing some innovative work with Richard Petty Motorsports surrounding our sponsorship, creating new and fun ways to engage the fans." SCENEDAILY.com's Bob Pockrass noted prior to joining RPM in '10, Best Buy "spent three years at Haas CNC Racing, then sponsored Elliott Sadler for two years at Gillett Evernham Motorsports." Meanwhile, Valvoline will sponsor Allmendinger for six additional Sprint Cup races (SCENEDAILY.com, 1/4).

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  • Power Balance Admits No Science Behind Popular Bracelets

    The maker of Power Balance bracelets has admitted that there is no science behind its claims and has "agreed to give refunds to customers who believe they were cheated," according to Amy Taxin of the AP. Australian Competition & Consumer Commission authorities had said that Power Balance "has no business claiming that they improve balance, strength and flexibility," and they "got Power Balance to admit it." Power Balance said in a statement, "We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims." But Power Balance spokesperson Adam Selwyn said that the company "doesn't claim to have science on its side." Instead, the company "relies on testimonials from famous athletes and users to tout the products' effects." Taxin reported the company began selling bracelets in '07 "embedded with holograms that were purportedly designed to interact with the body's natural energy flow." The wristbands, which sell for $29.95, have since "become ubiquitous," donned by athletes such as Celtics C Shaquille O'Neal, Lakers F Lamar Odom and MLS Galaxy MF David Beckham. The company "expects more than $35 million in sales" in '10 (AP, 1/4). In N.Y., Adam Caparell notes Power Balance bracelets "have soared in popularity since hitting the market," as more than 2.5 million bracelets "have been sold worldwide." Power Balance yesterday "defended its product and posted tweets from customers who still believe in the bracelet’s abilities." The company tweeted, "Don't believe what u hear. We stand by our products. (our trainers did test on us and we saw a difference in wearing them)"  (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/5).

    BAD TIMING AWARD: In Milwaukee, Don Walker wrote under the header, "Shocking News: Power Balance Wristbands Don't Work." Walker noted Bucks G Brandon Jennings and Packers TE Jermichael Finley have worn the bracelets and both are "out with injuries" (JSONLINE.com, 1/4).

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  • Marketplace Roundup

    Matthews' No. 52 jersey remains popular among Packers fans

    In Green Bay, Charles Davis reports The Jersey Store in Ashwaubenon, Wisc., is “scrambling to keep up with the demand for Packers apparel as fans prepare for the postseason.” The Jersey Store co-Owner Sheri Jordan “has ordered about 3,000 Super bowl hats, and wild-card T-shirts are set to arrive today.” Jordan said Reebok “is completely sold out of all green jerseys.” Packers LB Clay Matthews’ No. 52 jersey “leads Packers players in sales” at the store. Jordan: “Clay Matthews just really took off this year, so his jersey, you couldn’t keep it in the store. I think we’ve had to re-order his jersey five times this year.” Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is the “closest competition” to Matthews in jersey sales (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 1/5).

    COURT ORDERS: In Boston, Jenn Abelson reports New Balance is “facing accusations in a lawsuit that it deceived customers by claiming its popular toning shoes create more sculpted legs than traditional walking sneakers.” The complaint, filed by California resident Bistra Pashamova on Monday in U.S. District Court in Boston, is “seeking class-action status and damages in excess” of $5M on behalf of Pashamova and “other people who have allegedly been harmed by New Balance.” New Balance, which “recently launched a multimillion-dollar campaign for toning shoes, is one of several major sneaker companies that are facing class-action lawsuits from consumers” (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/5). The lawsuit alleges that New Balance’s “assertions that the shoes increase calorie-burning -- resulting in more toned muscles and a slimmer physique -- are not supported by scientific studies” (BOSTON HERALD, 1/5).

    ZOOM ZOOM: MARKETING MAGAZINE's John Reynolds reports England's FA next week is expected to confirm that Vauxhall “will be the new sponsor of the England football team, confirming earlier reports that the two parties were on the verge of reaching an agreement.” FA General Secretary Alex Horne and Vauxhall Marketing Dir Peter Hope are “expected to disclose details of the sponsorship next week,” and the deal “could be worth as much as” US$7.8M a year. Vauxhall will replace Nationwide, “which ended its 11-year sponsorship” of the team this year, as well as deals with Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The Vauxhall deal “could conflict with the FA’s existing agreement with Fiat, the official car supplier to the England team” (MARKETINGMAGAZINE.co.uk, 1/5).

    TWO BECOME ONE: Brand exposure measurement firm Repucom America has acquired K.C.-based Image Impact. The merger of the companies will take place over the next six months. Image Impact will become part of RSMG Insights along with Repucom and Sport+Markt AG. Repucom later this year plans to launch a range of research services that include consumer-based research and consulting devices (Repucom).

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