SBD/October 30, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Spirit In The Night: Diageo Close To Multiyear Sponsorship Deal With The NBA

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Spirits marketer Diageo is close to taking the wraps off a multiyear sponsorship deal with the NBA. Specific brands being leveraged have yet to be named. Last night’s TNT broadcast of Bulls-Heat had a variety of spirits commercials, including ads for Diageo’s Ciroc Amaretto, a flavored vodka brand which has used Sean "Diddy" Combs in advertising since ‘07. Diageo also owns Smirnoff, the biggest spirit brand in the world; Johnnie Walker scotch; and Captain Morgan and Myers’s rums. As an NBA sponsor, Diageo will replace Bacardi, which in ‘10 became the first spirits marketer to sign a sponsorship with one of the big four pro stick-and-ball leagues. As a much larger company, Diageo ups the spirits ante for the NBA. The move comes at a time when marketers of beer, long the lifeblood of sports sponsorship, have been losing market share to spirits, especially among younger drinkers. The big stick-and-ball leagues loosened their restrictions on spirits sponsorships within the past 5-10 years, but motorsports and golf appear to have been the biggest beneficiaries. Former NBA marketer Peter Farnsworth, who now heads consultancy Foxrock Partners, NYC, said, “From, a team perspective, there’s still a lot of restrictions on spirits." Farnsworth said he had no specific knowledge of the Diageo deal, but noted that while vodka marketers have been very active in recent years, brown spirits have lately shown significant growth. Farnsworth: “I’d look for more activity there."
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