SBD/April 30, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Las Vegas Leaving: Mandalay Bay The Latest Company To End Its Clippers Sponsorship

Mandalay previously had signage at Clippers home games at Staples Center
Clippers Owner Donald Sterling's lifetime ban from the NBA was "not enough for Mandalay Bay to maintain its business relationship with the team," according to Steve Carp of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. The hotel-casino had "signage at Clippers home games at Staples Center and also advertised on the team’s broadcasts." The move also means the Clippers’ preseason game scheduled for Oct. 18 against the Nuggets at Mandalay Bay Events Center "appears to be in jeopardy." The Clippers "have played preseason games at Mandalay Bay each of the past two years" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 4/30). Meanwhile, BLOOMBERG NEWS' Levinson & Novy-Williams report adidas has reinstated its sponsorship of the team following the penalties NBA Commissioner Adam Silver handed down to Sterling yesterday. Silver said he will strongly push for Sterling to sell the franchise, and the Chumash Casino Resort in a statement indicated it plans to "closely monitor the Clippers' ownership situation" before deciding whether to continue its relationship with the team. Kia, Lumber Liquidators and Sprint are all "reviewing their relationships with team." However, Virgin America spokesperson Jennifer Thomas indicated that the airline has "not changed its plans" to end its sponsorship with the Clippers (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 4/30). Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said the company has yet to decide "when we will advertise again with the Clippers," but he noted one considerations will be "what actually does end up happening with respect to the ownership." Hesse: "We like the steps that the commissioner has taken, but ... until the ownership changes, we likely will not advertise" ("Closing Bell," CNBC, 4/29).

SILVER URGES SPONSORS TO RETURN: In L.A., Hsu & Chang report Silver at yesterday's press conference "urged Clippers sponsors to return to backing the team." He said, "Those marketing partners of the Clippers and partners of the entire NBA should judge us on our response to this incident. I would hope that they would return to their business relationship with the Clippers." Hsu & Chang note more than 15 sponsors "suspended or cut ties with the team since Friday night." CarMax, a Clippers sponsor for nine years, reiterated that it "had ended its sponsorship of the team but added executives 'welcome the opportunity to discuss future sponsorship if this matter is fully resolved.'" The Southern California Ford Dealers said it will "revisit our direction with the L.A. Clippers" based on the NBA’s action against Sterling (L.A. TIMES, 4/30). AD AGE's Michael McCarthy reported the "promptness -- and severity -- of Mr. Silver's response seemed partly to put the league's marketing partners at ease." While team sponsors dropped out, leaguewide sponsors said that they "were waiting on the results of the investigation" (ADAGE.com, 4/29).

NEARLY SPONSORLESS STAPLES CENTER: The Clippers and Warriors played in a virtually sponsorless arena last night as former Clipper sponsor names were removed or covered up in the arena. Signs that read "Clippers Playoffs" and "Los Angeles Clippers" and the Clippers Twitter tag “@LAClippers” covered up walls of the arena where sponsor names used to be. Those brands were nowhere to be seen in Staples Center last night. The only sponsor name spotted was Spalding, which is the official ball of the NBA. The company's name was visible on the base of the basket stanchions at both ends of the court. The video board on the scoring table had the names of the networks TNT, ESPN and ABC, the networks which broadcast the NBA playoffs, but no other company names. An arena employee said the names of sponsors had been on the scoring table in the past. Staples Center and Clipper employees acknowledged sponsor names had been covered up (Liz Mullen, Staff Writer).

DROPPIN' DIMES: State Farm is among the companies that have suspended their relationship with the Clippers, but its sponsorship of Clippers G Chris Paul remains intact. ADWEEK's Tim Nudd wrote State Farm's ongoing "Born to Assist" series of ads starring Paul is the "most entertaining campaign airing now with an NBA endorser." The ads, via Translation, N.Y., are "based on a delightful idea" -- that Paul "was separated at birth from a twin brother he never knew." It is a "simple, almost perfect metaphor: that State Farm agents have assisting in their blood." And Paul, a "gifted actor, has quietly made it soar while playing himself and Cliff." The writing is "playful and faux mythic -- a tone that's only becoming more assured over time" (ADWEEK.com, 4/29).
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