SBD/March 14, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

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  • AmEx Re-Ups As Patron Sponsor Of PGA Of America For Three More Years

    American Express has "renewed its patron-level sponsorship with the PGA of America for three more years," according to Michael Smith of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Financial terms were not available, but the PGA's patron sponsorships "range from $3 million to $5 million a year and often require incremental media spending with the PGA's media partners." The AmEx deal includes access to the PGA Championship and other events "throughout the year, such as the Senior PGA; Ryder Cup on U.S. soil; and access to market AmEx's credit cards to the 28,000 golf pros represented by the PGA." AmEx has been a sponsor of the PGA since '06. The credit card company also has been a USGA "corporate partner since 2006, which gives it a presence at the U.S. Open as well." Meanwhile, PGA of America Senior Dir of Business Development Kevin Carter said that he is "searching for a fourth patron sponsor and hopes to add one this year." The PGA's other patron sponsors are Mercedes-Benz and RBC Bank (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/14 issue).

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  • IndyCar Owners Opt For Known Commodity In Deciding To Retain Firestone

    Firestone will increase price of tires, decrease sponsor participation under deal

    The Izod IndyCar Series and Firestone Friday agreed to a two-year extension of their partnership, as IndyCar team owners "wanted no part of breaking in another manufacturer while it tries to launch a new car," according to Curt Cavin of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. IndyCar "accepted what essentially is the same proposal Firestone offered in early January." Firestone will "increase the price of tires, reduce its sponsor participation and end its association as the title sponsor for the Indy Lights division after this season," giving IndyCar "time to land a replacement title sponsor." Cavin noted team owners "were unanimous in support of giving Firestone what it sought in cost reductions," and both sides "are happy even though the price for teams likely will almost double." IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard "still thought he had a chance to save the deal with Firestone until he read the company's quotes" in the Akron Beacon Journal "about layoffs in the area." Bernard: "That's when I knew it was real. That's when I got worried and went to the team owners" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/13).

    HAPPY TO STAY TOGETHER: IndyCar driver Dario Franchitti said, "They got all the owners to agree on something and to agree on something that is going to cost them money, so it must be important. To the drivers, it was a no-brainer. We all knew what we wanted" (SI.com, 3/14). Franchitti added, "I can't overstate the confidence we have in Firestone running the speeds we do at Indianapolis and Texas. We never think about tire failure, it's not part of our thought process and they are just a great partner." SPEEDTV.com's Robin Miller noted though the price is "likely to double from $278,000 to $550,000 in 2012, the owners were unanimous in their support of staying with Firestone." Bernard said of the old deal, "It was my job to negotiate as hard as we could and we let it expire because it wasn’t in the best interests of our teams. And it wasn’t that the owners didn’t want another manufacturer as much as it was the fact there wasn’t enough time to build a tire like Firestone’s. So we had a meeting and they all agreed that we need a successful tire with our new car and they were unanimous in wanting to stay with Firestone." Bridgestone Firestone Racing Exec Dir Al Speyer: "There were a lot of late nights and lots of details to work out and I’m a little surprised it got done this fast. But I think it’s a good day for us and a good day for Indy car racing." Miller noted Speyer "imagines his company will continue to provide marketing and promotional support" for the Indy Lights series after this season, "although probably not to the extent it is today" (SPEEDTV.com, 3/11). Speyer said Bridgestone and IndyCar engaged in "intense team efforts" to reach an agreement. He also noted that Bridgestone Americas CEO & President Gary Garfield "became involved" in the talks. In Ohio, Jim Mackinnon noted employees who "make Bridgestone's Firestone brand race tires in Akron will have jobs through the fall of 2013," though Speyer said that "there still could be some job reductions in Akron caused by the decision not to supply the Indy Lights series after the current season ends" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 3/12).

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  • Via Rail Becomes Latest Corporate Sponsor To Raise Concerns To NHL

    Via Rail has been a longtime sponsor of the Canadiens and Senators

    Via Rail, a longtime sponsor of the Canadiens and Senators, on Friday "shot off a letter to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman complaining that the league's 'quick and ineffective ruling on the Pacioretty/Chara incident of last Tuesday is totally unacceptable,'" according to Simon Houpt of the GLOBE & MAIL. The letter, which "followed a similar missive by Air Canada," insisted the league "consider our concerns" at this week's GM meetings in Florida. Via Rail General Counsel & Secretary Yves Desjardins-Siciliano said that the company was "especially outraged by Bettman's dismissal of Air Canada's criticism on Thursday, in which Bettman made a veiled threat to take the league's business elsewhere after the airline called on the NHL to take immediate action to prevent further injuries." However, he added that the company "would not consider pulling its support." Desjardins-Siciliano: "We believe our sponsorship is what gives us a right to be critical and demand changes and more discipline in the way discipline is administered." Meanwhile, a senior marketing official who does business with the NHL said that his company is "watching the situation closely and, if the league does not take action" at the GM meetings to address the concerns, the company "expects to make its disapproval known at that point." The CBC also acknowledged that one of its "large hockey advertisers had expressed concern" (GLOBEANDMAIL.com, 3/13).

    WITHIN THEIR RIGHTS? The CBC's Don Cherry during Saturday's "Hockey Night In Canada" said, "How about Via Rail? What a phony they are jumping on the bandwagon. And Air Canada, you should be ashamed of yourself. By the way, where are their corporate headquarters? We know where they are -- Montreal" (CP, 3/13). However, Fleishman-Hillard GM Bill Walker in a special to the TORONTO STAR wrote, "What Air Canada’s forceful letter to the NHL threatening to withdraw its sponsorship proved is that, while the NHL might not be responsive to its customer base, its sponsors truly are. In this social media era, marketers are closer to what their customers are feeling and thinking than ever before." Rather than a "dismissive 'we’ll find another airline,' and a thinly veiled shot at Air Canada’s service levels," Bettman "needs to be more responsive to his core constituency of Canadian hockey moms and dads, and Canadian hockey fans." If the NHL "continues to brush off these issues, it risks alienating a big part of its Canadian base of fans and sponsors at a time when both have more entertainment options than ever before" (TORONTO STAR, 3/13).

    PIVOTAL MOMENT FOR BETTMAN: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin writes, "Whether Bettman likes it or not, this is hockey's Dale Earnhardt moment, the time when the speed of the cars and the aggression of the drivers overwhelms the race track." No matter how "impulsive Air Canada’s media onslaught seemed, who wants a dead NHL player photographed lying in front of your corporate logo on the boards?" Bettman's "petulant response to the week's criticism, however, indicates he's still got the pedal to the floor and his fingers in his ears" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/14). CBSSPORTS.com's Ray Ratto wrote, "There have been any number of moments where Bettman's leadership has been questioned/mocked/dismissed." But he "never loses his core support, and he never loses his chestiness." Bettman, who quietly agreed to a five-year extension in November, "not only doesn't duck a fight, he likes them." He "likes getting in front of the other guy's goal." The people whom he "needs to like him like him, and as long as they have his back, he's going to continue Bettman-ing." His "new strength, he has decided, is to be the hardest of hardnoses, to conciliate on nothing, to tell anyone who needs to hear the lesson to go pound salt for another five years" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/11).

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