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SBD/September 19, 2013/Marketing and SponsorshipPrint All
NAPA Auto Parts today dropped its sponsorship of Michael Waltrip Racing and said it will evaluate its future in motorsports. The decision follows MWR’s effort to manipulate the end of NASCAR’s recent race in Richmond in order to get NAPA driver Martin Truex Jr. into the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. NASCAR last week penalized MWR $300,000, removed Truex from the Chase and suspended MWR GM Ty Norris. In a posting on Facebook, NAPA said it “believes in fair play and does not condone actions such as those that led to the penalties assessed by NASCAR. We remain supportive of the millions of NASCAR fans and will evaluate our future position in motorsports.” NAPA had two years left on a three-year, 36-race, primary sponsorship agreement with MWR. The deal was valued at $16M a year and could be worth more than $18M a year with Chase incentives and performance bonuses. It was one of a handful of full-season primary sponsors left in NASCAR. NAPA had sponsored MWR since '07 and Michael Waltrip since '01. In a statement, MWR said it would field three teams again next year despite needing sponsorship for its No. 56 car after losing NAPA. It added, “MWR is a resilient organization capable of winning races and competing for the championship and that remains our sole focus.” Sources said that following the Richmond race, Norris and Waltrip went to NASCAR President Mike Helton and told him NAPA might leave the team and the sport if NASCAR assessed heavy penalties on the team. The company had exit clauses that allowed it to terminate its contract early, and it chose to exercise those. NAPA in a statement said, “We remain supportive of the millions of NASCAR fans and will evaluate our future position in motorsports.” The company’s other major motorsports sponsorship is of funny car drag racer Ron Capps and Don Schumacher Racing (Tripp Mickle, Staff Writer).
BAD TIMING: The AP's Jenna Fryer reports the loss of a primary sponsor, "particularly with only nine races left in the season, will be a crippling blow to the Waltrip organization." It will be a "tremendous challenge to quickly replace the money," estimated at $15M a year at least, because NAPA is a "rare sponsor that covers that entire 36-race Sprint Cup schedule" (AP, 9/19). NASCAR.com's David Caraviello: "NAPA departure made even bigger by fact they covered nearly the whole No. 56 car, and didn't split season. Oh and 5 months 'til Daytona 500."
TWITTER REAX: NASCAR blogger Shawn Courchesne: "NAPA made it through the rocket fuel deal and Michael Waltrip flipping his car and walking home in his socks. No shock they're leaving." Blogger Tom Bowles: "NAPA had one of the biggest #NASCAR TV presences out there. Now, they're telling corporate America, 'We're leaving 'cause they're cheating.'" Yahoo Sports' Jay Busbee: "On the plus side, at least we won't see Waltrip and Truex singing Napa Know-How commercials anymore."
Outback Steakhouse will renew its sponsorship of Stewart-Haas Racing and become a two-race primary sponsor in '14 and '15 of the No. 4 car driven by Kevin Harvick. The company has been the primary sponsor of Stewart-Haas' No. 39 car driven by Ryan Newman in 2-3 races since '12, but Newman is leaving the team after this season and being replaced by Harvick. Outback joins Harvick’s other major sponsor Budweiser on the No. 4 car. Outback will continue to offer the same promotion with Harvick that it ran with Newman. Each time Harvick finishes a race in the top-10, its steakhouses will offer a free Bloomin' Onion to customers the Monday after the race. In a statement, Outback CMO Mike Kappitt said the “Bloomin' Monday” promotion had been “incredibly successful.”
Mets P Matt Harvey yesterday during an interview on "The Dan Patrick Show" "came off as an awkward disciple of the Qualcomm corporation," according to Kristie Ackert of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Harvey, when pressed by Patrick to discuss his elbow injury said, "Today is about honoring and supporting Qualcomm." The "strange interview quickly went viral and was even played in the Mets clubhouse, causing some players to shake their heads." There also was "an immediate backlash on Twitter." A source said that Harvey's interviews yesterday for Qualcomm "were not set up through the Mets." A source said that they also were "the first interviews he did where he was hired to plug a specific company." Harvey later "admitted his mistake in a series of tweets." Harvey wrote, "I’ve had a few rough outings on the mound, that was a rough outing on the radio this morning... Been an exhausting couple of days. Apologies to @dpshow and @Qualcomm" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/19). In N.Y., Tim Rohan noted when athletes appear on a radio show "to pitch something -- be it a product, charity effort or company," they traditionally "give an interview, answering relevant questions, and then are allotted time to pitch whatever they want" (NYTIMES.com, 9/18). NBCSPORTS.com's Craig Calcaterra wrote, "You can practically hear the publicist in his ear telling him to pitch the product" (NBCSPORTS.com, 9/18).
STAYING ON MESSAGE: Harvey during the interview was discussing his decision to do rehab instead of surgery on his injured arm, but then said, "I strongly believe that that's going to work and pay off, but today, I'm here talking about Qualcomm and hoping I can help them out as much as possible." Patrick said, "Well, I'll let you get the pitch in there -- no pun intended -- in a moment." Harvey was asked whether he was afraid of getting Tommy John surgery and dealing with the injury, but instead of addressing those issues, he said he "did all those answers yesterday and maybe at the appropriate time we can talk a little bit more about that but obviously today is about Qualcomm." Patrick appeared surprised by this reply and said, "You don’t want to talk about this whole rehab and Tommy John?" Harvey said, "I will. We can set up another call if you'd like to about that subject but today we're honoring and supporting Qualcomm." After Patrick hung up the phone, he told the show's producers he wasn't "having him call in to talk about Qualcomm." Patrick: "He should know if you're going to pitch a product, how this works is we let you pitch a product, but you do a full interview" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 9/18).
TWITTER REAX: Harvey's interview and subsequent apology generated plenty of reaction on Twitter yesterday. SI.com’s Jimmy Traina: “Classy & smart move by @MattHarvey33 apologizing for doing a bad radio interview. ... I've done a few interviews I never posted because all athlete wanted to do was plug. I wish they've would've apologized.” ESPN N.Y.'s Andrew Marchand wrote, "The interview was silly, but apologizing makes it seem like he did something much worse than just conduct a terrible interview." SI's Richard Deitsch: "@AndrewMarchand Gotta disagree. It's a classy move by Harvey to apologize. There's an implicit agreement here. You plug, you talk." ESPN N.Y.'s Mike Mazzeo: "The real question is why did Matt Harvey apologize to Qualcomm. Qualcomm should be thanking Harvey." NBCSports.com's Craig Calcaterra: "The Harvey/Qualcomm backlash is ironic. What he's promoting is product which helps fans get involved in games via social media/cellphones." NBC Sports Group VP/Original Programming Ron Wechsler: "You can literally see the publicist in the room w/Harvey, frantically scratching on a paper imploring him to pivot to Qualcomm. So silly." NFL Network's Rich Eisen: "Whatever you do, stick to that script RT @CaughtOffBase: I'm just here to tweet about Qualcomm." ESPN's Darren Rovell: "It’s Qualcomm’s responsibility to tell Matt Harvey what the expectation is for a radio interview promotion. Last question is standard." Yahoo Sports' Greg Wyshynski: "Matt Harvey is either the greatest or most terrible pitchman in sales history." The Wall Street Journal's Brian Costa: "If he had a sense of humor, Ben Bernanke would come out today and say simply, 'Today is about Qualcomm.'"
While Twitter is full of comments on what Mets P Matt Harvey could have done differently in his interview yesterday with Dan Patrick, two sports marketing execs said what Harvey lacked most was proper preparation. Engage Marketing President & Chief Solutions Officer Kevin Adler said that Harvey promoting Qualcomm while declining to discuss his elbow injury went against the "quid pro quo in the relationship between a brand, their spokespeople, and sports media." Adler said of Harvey, "Good for him for being so committed to the brand. Sometimes you get these endorsements, and the athletes almost accept the deals and the check in their sleep, and they’re not super-committed to the brand. We had the opposite experience here -- somebody who was so committed to getting the message out there that all sense of context went out the window." Adler noted even when Patrick allowed Harvey to speak freely about Qualcomm, the message "wasn't well-delivered." Adler: "There's no question that Qualcomm’s PR folks could have done a better job of media training." Turnkey Intelligence Senior VP Steve Seiferheld also called for more coaching for Harvey, saying, "Somebody needs to sit down with him and say, 'This is what you need to expect.'"
PITCHER'S OFF DAY: Adler said of Harvey's marketability in the wake of the interview, "I don’t know that he necessarily has the phone ringing off the hook from other brands today. Nor does he necessarily have the phone ringing off the hook from other media outlets." Adler added, "If I’m his agent, I’m probably investing in a little bit of media training, but I’m also in pitching future deals saying, 'Look how committed my guy is to advocating for the brands he signs up with. He’s not just collecting checks, he’s out there stumping.'" Seiferheld said Harvey's interview "hurt him from an endorsement perspective, but it’s something he can recover from," and stressed athletes' need to be authentic as endorsers. Seiferheld: "I’m sure Qualcomm was ecstatic he was so focused on getting the job done, but you have to come across as who you are."
The Univ. of Alabama football team for years has "taken the field in the familiar crimson and white," but the wording on a jersey listing on the official site of UA athletics "sparked speculation on Tuesday that Alabama might soon follow the lead of college football teams around the nation and take the field in an alternate jersey," according to Ty West of the BIRMINGHAM BUSINESS JOURNAL. The listing says the limited edition Nike "Blackout" jersey is "designed in the same styling as the gear your favorite players will wear on the field in the 2013 Blackout Game." UA student newspaper Crimson White Sports Editor Marc Torrence said that school officials "are working on having the text corrected on the listing." Aside from the "potential fan uproar that would result from Alabama taking the field in black jerseys, there's a logistical reason you shouldn't expect the Crimson Tide to don these Nike jerseys any time soon." The jerseys, with their "dark numerals on top of the black, appear to violate a new NCAA rule that states the numerals must clearly contrast with the jersey." Although UA has "mostly stayed true to its crimson and white uniforms over the years, the Crimson Tide has mixed it up -- albeit slightly -- from time to time" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 9/18).
MARKETING 101: GOLF DIGEST's Mike Stachura reported Alabama is one of 19 colleges Bridgestone Golf has signed a deal with "to sell officially logoed golf balls." The logos are available "only on any Bridgestone ball through its custom program, but specially logoed packages of the Bridgestone e6 ... will be available at retail starting this week ($32)." Bridgestone Golf Marketing Manager for Golf Balls Corey Consuegra said that Alabama and LSU "have drawn the most early orders, but he expects Ohio State to be right at the top, as well" (GOLF DIGEST STIX, 9/18 issue).