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SBD/March 11, 2011/Marketing and SponsorshipPrint All
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is "unfazed by Air Canada's threat to take its millions in NHL sponsorship elsewhere," and he "warned teams might choose to fly with another airline," according to Paul Koring of the GLOBE & MAIL. Bettman, when asked if he took Air Canada's "threat to pull sponsorship money seriously," responded, "Air Canada is a great brand as is the National Hockey League and if they decide that they need to do other things with their sponsorship dollars, that’s their prerogative." He added, "It is the prerogative of our clubs that fly on Air Canada to make other arrangements if they don’t think Air Canada is giving them the appropriate level of service." Koring notes all six Canadian NHL clubs "have charter arrangements with Air Canada," as do "several U.S.-based teams." In the wake of Canadiens LW Max Pacioretty being injured by a hit from Bruins D Zdeno Chara, Air Canada in a letter Wednesday "demanded the NHL to do more to prevent life-threatening injuries and combat the spate of concussions that have felled players this season." Meanwhile, Bettman "staunchly backed the league decision" not to suspend Chara for the hit. Bettman said, "The people in the game that I have heard from, almost to a person, and I will exclude the two clubs involved, believe it was handled appropriately. Our hockey operations people are extraordinarily comfortable with the decision that they made" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/11). While the contractual details of Air Canada’s sponsorship deals with NHL clubs are confidential, a source "marks the annual contributions" at C$1.5-2M in Toronto, where the airline has the naming rights for the Maple Leafs’ home rink, about C$1M each in Vancouver and Montreal and between C$500,000-750,000 in Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa (TORONTO STAR, 3/11).
AIRLINE OUT OF LINE? Versus' Jeremy Roenick said, "I love the way that Gary Bettman handled this. There is no reason (for) Air Canada to come up and threaten the National Hockey League. Do your thing, take care of your planes. Make sure your planes fly and land, and Gary Bettman will take care of the National Hockey League. There is no need for this kind of threat." Versus' Billy Jaffe: "They can pick and choose -- that's their right -- who they want to sponsor. My guess is, though, they're probably sponsoring some boxing matches, some MMA stuff, some football. ... Air Canada is not the moral police for what is right and wrong in the National Hockey League. I don't know who gave them the power in Canada to step up and say that" ("NHL Overtime," Versus, 3/10). ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote Air Canada "should be ashamed of themselves. In many ways, it merely reinforces the notion that Canada is a small, backwards little country with an unnatural affection for a game." ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun added, "You would think the airline would be more concerned about getting its own house in order before poking its nose in the NHL's affairs" (ESPN.com, 3/10). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "The first thing I would do before I had any comment on it is I'd try to go out and find somebody to take the naming rights on that Toronto arena and sponsor my league. Then I would tell Air Canada to go scratch, if that's what they want, because I think that Air Canada makes this deal with the NHL because it helps them a lot in Canada" ("PTI," ESPN, 3/10). ESPN.com's Jackie MacMullan: "You can't have your sponsors run your league. If Gary Bettman truly is concerned about the health and welfare of his players, then make your own rules. Don't have someone else have you do it" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 3/10). But the GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin wrote of Bettman's response to Air Canada, "As a threat, it was as subtle as a sledgehammer. And no word whether other sponsors feel a misplaced word would win them a similar rebuke" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/11).
A WORD FROM OUR SPONSORS: The GLOBE & MAIL's Houpt, Jang & Krashinsky noted, "Perhaps with an eye to the NHL’s notoriously strong control over its image -- the league fines marketing partners who speak publicly without prior authorization -- other sponsors quietly refused comment on the matter." Labatt and Visa Canada both said that they "do not involve themselves in the administration of their sports partners," while PepsiCo said that it had "no plans to alter its sponsorship of the league or the players’ association." BCE Inc., which is a marketing partner of the NHL and holds a minority stake in the Canadiens as well as sponsoring the Bell Centre, "expressed concerns but supported the league" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/11). In Toronto, Robert Cribb notes Tim Hortons, whose television ads feature concussed Penguins C Sidney Crosby, issued a statement encouraging the NHL, teams, GMs and the NHLPA "to continue to work towards addressing concerns with head injuries." Several other major NHL sponsors -- including Kraft, LG, Scotiabank, Gatorade and Enterprise -- said that they "had no plans to discontinue their sponsorship relationships with the league, although even some of them expressed concerns" (TORONTO STAR, 3/11). Molson Coors, which last month announced a seven-year sponsorship with the league, said it is "concerned about hockey safety but comfortable leaving the decision-making to the NHL." Molson Coors Dir of PR Marie-Hélène Lagac said, "As a sponsor, we feel it’s not really our role to get involved in the business and day-to-day decisions of hockey. As fans of the game, however, we are concerned about safety issues and we support any efforts by all involved to improve the safety of the players" (Montreal GAZETTE, 3/11). The GLOBE & MAIL's Michael Babad wrote, "I wonder how long it will take for other sponsors to follow the lead of Air Canada. ... I suspect it won't be long" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/11).
IMAGE PROBLEM: The GLOBE & MAIL's Houpt, Jang & Krashinsky note the "issue has cropped up at an awkward moment for the league as it continues a push to reposition itself as a family-friendly sport." The NHL in late January "unveiled a campaign with the Huggies diaper brand to help raise funds for underprivileged families, while last month some of its current and former stars were used in a campaign by the personal hygiene brand Dove Men + Care." But that image "has suffered as the players themselves have fallen prey to concussions and other injuries." Laval Univ. sports marketing professor André Richelieu: "Right now, the brand image and brand identity of the NHL is pretty much nurtured by violence" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/11). Univ. of Toronto sports marketing professor Richard Powers said that even if there "isn’t broad sponsorship mutiny in the short term, other forces could line up against the league," including "federal and provincial governments." Police in Quebec Thursday announced that they are "investigating" Chara's hit. Powers: "It really hurts the brand. And brand is everything. That’s what the NHL is selling. Anything that detracts from the value of that brand is an issue" (TORONTO STAR, 3/11).
NBC and the USOC have signed Citi as an official advertiser and sponsor for the ‘12 London Games. Sources valued the media-driven deal at $30M. The bank will be the official bank partner of the network and the ’12 U.S. Olympic team. Citi plans to use the partnership to promote its 200th anniversary next year. Its rights include retail, corporate, commercial and investment banking. The deal is the second of three NBC and the USOC hope to cut in the banking category. The parties recently signed TD Ameritrade as an official online brokerage. They are working to find a wealth management partner as well. This is the first time NBC and the USOC have partnered to sell an integrated package that includes media and marketing rights, and USOC officials are encouraged by the results of the collaboration. USOC CMO Lisa Baird: “Partners are responding to the integrated marketing and media package. We're proud of both of these coming on and doing so in quick time is evidence this is working.” The USOC has been without an official bank since Bank of America declined to extend its 16-year support of the organization in ‘09. The Citi agreement was negotiated by GroupM, which recently worked with Farmers Insurance Group on the naming-rights deal at the prospective downtown L.A. stadium. GroupM will activate, with help from Publicis. NBC VP/Olympic Sales Paul Wilson led NBC's sales team and 21 Marketing Founder Rob Prazmark, who helped put together NBC and USOC last fall, represented the USOC in the negotiations (Mickle & Lefton, SportsBusiness Journal). In Colorado Springs, Brian Gomez notes most top USOC sponsorships "bring more than $10 million over four years," but the Citi deal "carries a higher price tag despite a shorter timeframe because of the NBC ad buys." Baird called the agreement a "significant deal" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 3/11).
MAKING A COMEBACK: In N.Y., Ken Belson notes the U.S. federal government has recouped the $45B it lent Citi during the recession, and Citi Exec VP/Global Public Affairs Ed Skyler said, "Sponsoring the team is a great way to express our gratitude to the American people for their support, not just over the last three years, but our 200-year history. Comebacks happen in business just like they do in sports." Citi can renew the sponsorship deal with the USOC beyond the London Games, "but not necessarily in this format" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/11).
The Izod IndyCar Series and Firestone Friday agreed to a two-year extension of their partnership. The agreement, which will see Firestone continue to provide tires through '13, ends several months of concern that the Tennessee-based company would end its support. Doing so would have left IndyCar scrambling to find a new partner who could quickly develop a tire sophisticated enough to support racing on ovals, street and road courses. IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard said, "Firestone has been an important partner for the series since 1911, so we're glad we could work this out. This was important to our teams." The deal is mostly value-in-kind and will see Firestone continue to supply tires to the series, which helps save teams an estimated $750,000 a year. Under terms of the agreement, Firestone will no longer provide tires to the Indy Lights series after the '11 season. Firestone is currently the title sponsor of the Indy Lights series, though that deal also expires after this year. Bernard said that IndyCar will look to find a new tire manufacturer for that series that it could potentially graduate to the IndyCar Series after '13. Firestone has been the official tire of IndyCar since '00.
Coconut water brand Zico has signed Celtics F Kevin Garnett "as an endorser in a deal that will pay him both cash and give him an undisclosed equity stake in the company," according to Darren Rovell of CNBC.com. Some observers "might be skeptical given that Garnett had a deal with Gatorade up until December," but Garnett "came to Zico, not the other way around." Garnett said that he has "converted many teammates to the ritual, which involves him drinking one bottle after every massage, one bottle after practice and one bottle on ice after the game." He added, "I don’t mind being the face of the coconut water boom. There’s so many people who care more and more about what is going into their body and I can help grow that awareness." Rovell noted "other believers with deep pockets" include Madonna, Matthew McConaughey and Demi Moore, who "bought a share of Vita Coco" (CNBC.com, 3/10).
Under Armour is "planning to build a 25,000-square-foot retail store" at its HQs in the Tide Point business park in Baltimore now that the company "has reached a deal to buy" the complex, according to Daniel Sernovitz of the BALTIMORE BUSINESS JOURNAL. Under Armour Exec VP/Business Development J. Scott Plank said that the company is "planning to build a retail store at Tide Point to show off, and sell, its latest products." Plank noted that Under Armour has retained Baltimore-based architecture firm Ayers Saint Gross to design the proposed store. The company has four full-priced retail stores in the U.S., and Plank said, "What we don’t have is a store which shows everybody what we’re doing right now." Sernovitz noted Under Armour officials have been "relatively quiet on their future plans for Tide Point, which the company has agreed to buy for $60.5 million in a deal expected to close by May." But Plank said that the company "decided to buy Tide Point primarily to make sure it could keep its corporate campus there." He indicated that Under Armour "may seek city financing to aid its development," adding that the company is "looking into a city financial aid program called Tax Increment Financing, which would allow the city to issue public bonds to help pay for campus improvements that Under Armour would pay back over time with the increased property taxes its improvements generate" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 3/10).
Apparel company A & E Group President and former MLB Cardinals VP/Community Outreach Tim Hanser last year "returned to his baseball roots by launching a new division, Three60 Gear, which features shirts with high-resolution images of sports figures on the front and back," according to Lisa Brown of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Hanser "has signed a licensing agreement" with MLB and the NBA for the shirts, and he is "in talks with other professional sports leagues." Hanser said that he is "gearing up to expand the Three60 brand into more stadiums and is negotiating with retail customers that are putting together their baseball merchandise lineups." He said the idea for Three60 Gear came from wanting to "do something for fans that was completely unique and totally different. We came up with Three60 Gear as a way to put high-def full action sports images on shirts." Hanser added each shirt has a "patch with a serial number," and fans can go online, type in the number and "find out all the details about the image: it was on this date, this opponent, he was pitching against this player, etc." Hanser: "It's a real interactive way that fans can find out more about the shirt. We've never seen anything like it." He said the company tested Three60 Gear last year with the Cardinals, Yankees, Phillies, Giants and "a few other teams," and "fans last fall were gobbling them up." Hanser noted the brand now is in 20 MLB markets this season, and a new e-commerce site will be launching "later in March." Three60 Gear shirts costs "around $40" at most retailers, but they are priced higher at ballparks and online (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/11).
GOING RETRO: USA TODAY's Bruce Horovitz reports there is currently a "nostalgia craze" in marketing. Nike "launched its $160 Playoff Air Jordan 13 Retro shoe in February," a re-launch of the original, which debuted at the '98 NBA All-Star Game. Meanwhile, MLB licensee Forty Seven Brand is "rolling out a Banner 47 line of men's and women's retro apparel for all 30 ball clubs" (USA TODAY, 3/11).
Domino's Pizza announced that it has become the official pizza of the NCAA and several of its 23 Division I national championships. Domino's is teaming with Coca-Cola, Turner Sports and CBS Sports in a multiyear partnership, marking the first time the QSR has partnered nationally with collegiate athletics. It also marks the first national sports marketing sponsorship for Domino's since '07. Through the partnership, Domino's will have rights to the NCAA basketball tournaments, including the men's and women's Final Fours, the Men's Frozen Four and the men's and women's College World Series (Domino's).
FORT KNOX: In Chicago, Vaughn McClure reports Bears WR Johnny Knox has signed the "first endorsement deal" of his career to promote Avitae, a new brand of energy drink. Knox received a "four-figure signing bonus as part of the marketing deal." With an NFL lockout looking like a distinct possibility, Knox noted he has talked to the Bears' union reps. He said , "They've told me prepare as if there's going to be a lockout and take care of your money. Since then, my marketing agent, Bill Horn, he's been putting things together for me trying to find better opportunities just in case" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/11).
PEDAL TO THE METAL: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Thursday announced a partnership with metal-cutting manufacturer Hurco Companies Inc. Hurco will have a branded machine shop at the team's Indianapolis facility and will have its logo featured on the No. 22 Izod IndyCar Series entry driven by Justin Wilson (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing).