SBD/December 21, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

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  • Eastern Promises: Heat Sign Marketing Deal With Chinese Beer Tsingtao

    Tsingtao will send members of Passion Dancers to perform with Heat dance team

    The Heat yesterday announced a multiyear marketing partnership with Chinese beer company Tsingtao, but it is "clear the agreement with Tsingtao ... is much more than another sponsor putting its name on signs at AmericanAirlines Arena,” according to Craig Davis of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Tsingtao as part of the agreement “will send several members of their Passion Dancers to perform with the Heat dance team this season.” The Tsingtao Passion Dancers Competition is “the highest-rated TV show in China, drawing more than 100,000 aspirants.” Tsingtao President Sun Mingbo said that the company “was drawn to partner with the Heat because of their star power and championship potential.” Davis notes the Heat's visibility in China “has grown” since Fs LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined G Dwyane Wade in Miami last offseason. All three played in the ’08 Beijing Games and “have returned to China on promotional tours.” Heat F Shane Battier also “is well known there because he played” with former NBAer Yao Ming in Houston, and Battier also “has an endorsement deal with Chinese sportswear company Peak.”  Meanwhile, Davis reports the deal could be a prelude to a Heat exhibition tour as soon as next year.” Heat President of Business Operations Eric Woolworth said, "We're not in control of that, the NBA is. But we have every reason to believe that we are high on the list of teams that they'll be inviting over to China, if not next year certainly soon" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 12/21). The SOUTH FLORIDA BUSINESS JOURNAL’s Oscar Pedro Musibay noted the partnership is “mainly for TV visibility, both in the U.S. and in China.” Heat VP/Corporate Partnerships Chris Maragno said that the team “began exploring partnerships with Chinese corporations about a year ago, around the time the team added James and Bosh to the team, after learning their games were broadcast there.” He said that the Heat, which “has an existing endorsement deal with a Chinese watchmaker, would continue to explore partnerships in the future” (, 12/20).

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  • Li-Ning Makes Second Attempt At U.S. Market, Focuses On E-Commerce

    Li-Ning's international e-commerce site will initially focus on the U.S

    Chinese sports brand Li-Ning is "making a second pass at the U.S. market and for now their strategy is branded e-commerce," according to AD AGE. The company's "first English-language consumer website" launched Monday, and it has "already picked up some popular U.S. e-commerce tactics, like free holiday shipping and a Facebook page." Li-Ning CMO Frank Chen said, "The U.S. is obviously important for any sports brand to have a presence in ... (and) in the short term the most cost-effective manner to reach that market, to get products to consumers, is through the e-commerce platform." Li-Ning has been in the U.S. since '07, and its "first attempt at selling products through U.S. retailers fizzled because of supply-chain problems." Independent digital marketing agency Acquity Group "sealed a joint-venture with Li-Ning a year ago to form Digital Li-Ning, with a $10 million startup investment." The international e-commerce site "will initially focus on the U.S." Along with Acquity and other partners, Li-Ning plans to "invest a combined $100 million on global marketing over the next five years." Li-Ning "sees its niche in the U.S. as an Eastern-inspired brand that emphasizes the spiritual side of sports, focusing on balance of mind and body over brute strength and power." The company initially is "selling products in three categories: basketball, running and women's fitness." The marketing campaign is still at an "early stage and messaging has not yet been fully developed." But as an example, women's fitness products will be "marketed as sporty yet still feminine." The '12 London Games will be "key in putting Li-Ning in front of consumers and driving traffic to the new site." The brand has endorsement deals with international athletes but is "counting on gold-medal performances from the Chinese gymnastics, diving, badminton, ping pong and shooting teams." Chen noted that to succeed in the youth-driven basketball category, Li-Ning also is "targeting starters on the NBA All-Star teams and is currently in talks with agents to ink a deal in time for the start of next season" (AD AGE, 12/19 issue).

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  • Marketplace Roundup

    IOC Marketing Commission Chair Gerhard Heiberg confirmed that the organization is "'very close' to finalizing an eight-year extension of McDonald's TOP sponsorship through 2020." He "expects the new deal to be announced in the next couple of weeks." Heiberg said that he also "is 'still in talks' with Acer to renew through 2020." Heiberg: "The PC category is a little more difficult. They are interested. Maybe we will find an agreement before London (2012)." Heiberg also "revealed that he does now expect to secure a 12th sponsor for the 2014/2016 quadrennial" (, 12/21). SportsBusiness Journal in October first broke that McDonald's was close to renewing its deal.

    QUIETLY MARKETING JIMMER:'s Sam Amick noted for NBA Kings G Jimmer Fredette, the "building of a marketing machine continues quietly in the background." Fredette "surprised the shoe industry recently when his partnership with Spalding was revealed, and he has since worn two different versions of the company's first basketball shoe at Sacramento-arena exhibition games." His DVD, "The Making of Jimmer," is expected to be "released in mid-February." His agent, Chris Emens, said that there is "more to come soon in terms of endorsement deals, though he would not offer specifics." Kings co-Owner Joe Maloof said, "We've had to have two people working full-time on (Fredette's) jersey (because of the demand). On the black jerseys, we had a bunch of them with no name on the back, so we had to have two people downstairs putting the name on the back of his jersey, working day and night to get as many out as we could" (, 12/19).

    FIGHTING A BRAVE FIGHT: In L.A., Carla Caldwell noted the Braves are "fighting Walt Disney Co.'s applications to register 'Brave' as a trademark in preparation for the June 2012 release of the Disney Pixar animated movie titled, 'Brave.'" Disney wants to "register 'Brave' for merchandise and other items that tie in with the film." The Braves "object to all of Disney's trademark applications, saying the public is likely to be confused by Disney's use of the word 'Brave'" (, 12/20).

    COLLECTIBLES: Panini America in February will release its '12 Preferred Basketball trading card set, a new addition that will include three autographs and one six- or eight-swatch memorabilia booklet card in every pack. It will cost $200. Preferred will be followed by the return of Hoops brand in March, whose retail pack price will be $1 (Panini America).

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