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SBD/September 23, 2013/Marketing and SponsorshipPrint All
5-Hour Energy yesterday refused "to give a firm commitment" that the company would remain with Michael Waltrip Racing and sponsor driver Clint Bowyer's car in '14, according to Dan Gelston of the AP. 5-Hour Energy President Scott Henderson said, "We'll see how the year plays out. ... There's a lot of talk about integrity. When the guy who's in charge can say, 'I can do whatever I want and I'm going to do it and I just did,' I wonder about integrity. I want to make sure we can win in this sport, OK?" Gelston noted it was "unclear if he was referring" to NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France (AP, 9/22). Waltrip on Friday said that with the backing of MWR co-Owner Rob Kauffman, the "intent is still to field three race teams" in '14. Waltrip said, "It’s been a rocky couple of weeks. Yes, I was scared and uncertain about our future. After speaking with folks from Aaron’s [driver Brian Vickers’ primary sponsor] and all of our partners, they’re supporting us. They’re sticking with us.” He added that he has "talked to 5-Hour Energy" and the company is "on board to continue" in '14. Waltrip said of NAPA's decision to withdraw its sponsorship of MWR and driver Martin Truex Jr., "They felt like the events of the last 10 days had spiraled out of control a bit. They felt like what we were involved with -- and NASCAR penalized us for -- was more than they were comfortable dealing with. ... We put them in that position -- in a bad spot" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/21). In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell wrote Waltrip was "contrite and patient" on Friday. He "lost his cool once, ever so briefly, when asked in so many words why he wasn’t more forthcoming about exactly what his operation had done wrong at the race" in Richmond. Waltrip: "Do they want an arm? What are they looking for?" Bonnell wrote this "won’t be the last time Waltrip’s patience is tested over this episode." It could take "months, maybe years, for him to earn back his operation’s reputation and the fans’ trust," and the "financial viability of MWR is at stake" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/22).
RUNNING OUT OF TIME: The AP's Gelston wrote Truex in seeking a funded ride has "little time to piece together a deal and few options." Truex said on Friday, "There's not a whole lot out there." Truex "would like to stay at MWR," but he "doesn't know if NAPA would follow him to another team." SMI Chair & CEO Bruton Smith, who helped bring NAPA into NASCAR, said, "They should have swallowed and moved on. They're going to lose more picking up and running than they would have had they stayed right here." Meanwhile, Waltrip said that he "had a meeting set" this past weekend with 5-Hour Energy's Henderson (AP, 9/20).
INCIDENT HURTS POTENTIAL SPONSORS: ESPN's Rusty Wallace said of NAPA's departure from MWR, "I can’t remember the last time a sponsor has left a team because they were embarrassed. This is something that everybody’s going to learn from. This is a huge lesson learned right here. A lot of people are thinking, drivers, owners, everybody. You got to do the right stuff for these sponsors and for this sport.” ESPN's Brad Daugherty: "That’s a seismic shift when you have a sponsor that size deciding what its future may be in the sport” (“NASCAR Countdown,” ESPN, 9/22). The CHARLOTTE OBSERVER's Bonnell noted driver Kyle Busch had "a strong opinion on the corrosive effect this had on sponsor relations." Busch said, "It's a tough economy, a tough (time in) the sport to pick up sponsors and bring them on in. It's frustrating. There are a lot of race fans sometimes voicing an opinion that there aren’t enough competitive cars every week. Then they’ll send in comments to sponsors that they shouldn’t sponsor that team or that driver because of things that happen on the race track. All that does is drive sponsors away from our sport" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/22).
Fox is running a social media contest "centered on an offer to give away a commercial" during the net's Super Bowl XLVIII pregame show, according to Stuart Elliott of the N.Y. TIMES. This "may be the first time" the net broadcasting the Super Bowl "is planning an ad contest of its own." The contest would offer a 30-second ad to be broadcast during the pregame show around 5:00pm ET, a prize "valued at about $850,000." The contest is tentatively called the Social Bowl, "although there is already a Web site by that name that tracks the effectiveness of Super Bowl advertising in building value for brands." Marketers will be "able to participate in the contest by submitting proposed commercials to the Fox Sports Media Group and paying an entry fee of $150,000." Football fans, "ad fans and anyone with access to social media will then vote on which potential spot they believe is Super Bowl Sunday-worthy after watching the entries on online platforms." Fox Sports Media Group "plans to promote the voting with an extensive campaign in social media outlets that is scheduled to begin on the first weekend in January." A contest winner "will be named close to or on game day." Fox Sports Media Group Exec VP/Sales Neil Mulcahy credited Fox Sports Senior VP/Digital Pete Vlastelica "with coming up with the idea for the contest." Vlastelica said that he "envisioned the contest as a way to 'open to a much larger group of brands the opportunity to advertise on Super Bowl Sunday,' particularly the kinds of 'independent, smaller brands that don’t think of participating in the run-up to the Super Bowl because it is beyond their reach.'" Vlastelica said, "It will be interesting to see who wins, a major brand or a brand you’ve never heard of." The submitted ads "must meet broadcast acceptability standards" for advertising during NFL games (N.Y. TIMES, 9/21).
ESPN, as it is "facing new competition in the sports-TV world," on Saturday "began airing a new advertising campaign" for "SportsCenter," according to Suzanne Vranica of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. This is the "first time in about a decade" ESPN will pay for "SportsCenter" ads to "air on other media outlets." The new campaign "could help bolster the show's ratings." "SportsCenter" this year "averaged 828,000 viewers through Sept. 8," a drop from 1 million in the year-ago period. FS1's "Fox Sports Live" averaged about 100,000 viewers "on weeknights and 160,000 viewers on weekends during the Aug. 17-Sept. 18 period. ESPN's ad push "includes TV, outdoor and digital advertising." It will "show professional athletes and sports fans evoking the familiar 'DaDaDa' SportsCenter theme song in the midst of their activities." The net "declined to comment on how much they would be spending on the pitch." ESPN said that the ads will run on DirecTV, Time Warner's Adult Swim and channels owned by Viacom such as Spike and Comedy Central (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/21).
Online retailer Fanatics has the "ambitious goal" of generating at least $5B in annual revenue over the next decade, up from $1B this year, according to Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. The company, which is the nation's "largest online seller of licensed sports merchandise," runs the online shops of the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, the PGA Tour and more than 150 college and pro teams. The company's "success is based on fast access to more than one million items." Fanatics Exec Chair Michael Rubin to better serve fans is "expanding the selection of goods on Fanatics.com, which makes up about half of the company’s sales, and on the hundreds of sites that it runs for leagues, colleges and conferences." The "one-stop-full-price shopping model has worked well for the leagues, which share an undisclosed percentage of the sales of their licensed goods with Fanatics." Rubin said that merchandise for colleges and the NFL "run neck and neck in sales and are well above all the other leagues." The NBA, which said that its online sales had "tripled since Fanatics began running its online shop in 2007, did not disclose its sales figures, but Rubin said it was 'a $100 million retail business for us.'" Fanatics has "hired 600 full-time employees and thousands of seasonal workers in its call centers, warehouses and Web design divisions, and it recently opened a 580,000-square foot distribution center in Ohio that is similar to its facilities in Jacksonville and Louisville." The company "plans to add a distribution hub" in the western U.S. in '14 or '15 to "speed delivery to fans there" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/21). Rubin, who is also a 76ers investor, is featured in this week's issue of SportsBusiness Journal as part of the "Sit-Down" series.
FANZZ ACQUIRES JUST SPORTS: In Utah, Jason Lee reports the Jazz-owned Fanzz sports apparel stores are "acquiring Just Sports, a retail chain of licensed apparel stores based in the Pacific Northwest." Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Fanzz upon completion of the deal will "employ more than 900 people, including approximately 225 full-time workers." Jazz CFO and Fanzz President Bob Hyde said that projected sales for the combined entity "could top" $100M annually with the addition of the new stores (DESERET NEWS, 9/23).