SBJ/January 15 - 21, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

IMG gets a call from AT&T Broadband as Ma Bell’s kids sort out deals

IMG is an early beneficiary of the plan to restructure AT&T Corp. into three companies, as AT&T Broadband has tapped the firm as its sports marketing agency.

IMG's corporate representation division and its motorsports division are working with AT&T Broadband, which has a NASCAR sponsorship and several other sports deals. AT&T's consumer long-distance division, which will be part of a company called AT&T Business Services but have its own tracking stock, will continue to employ Octagon as its sports marketing consultant. The third company to be spun off, AT&T Wireless, works with several agencies, including FCB Sports Marketing out of San Francisco.

Ma Bell is still sorting out exactly what rights to which sports properties each new company will have. It will depend not only on how each contract was written, but also on which division was originally the force behind each deal.

AT&T Broadband, which owns cable and high-speed Internet assets acquired through the purchases of TCI and MediaOne, was the catalyst behind the NASCAR deal announced early last year. It also inherited an extensive deal from MediaOne with Philips Arena in Atlanta and the teams that play there. (Coincidentally, IMG's corporate representation division is the lead sports consultant for arena naming-rights sponsor Philips Electronics.)

AT&T Business Services, through the consumer division, will hold on to the NBA sponsorship. That deal had covered the entire telecommunications category for the last eight years but was defined more narrowly when it was renewed this season.

The PGA Tour and Salt Lake City Olympics sponsorships are all-encompassing corporate deals for AT&T, and it remains to be seen which divisions will be most active in leveraging those associations. It was AT&T Wireless and the business-to-business unit of AT&T Business Services that most embraced the PGA Tour sponsorship last year.

All three AT&T units have their own deals with the FleetCenter in Boston.

Neither IMG nor AT&T Broadband would comment on the company's sports marketing plans for this year.

The first 12 months of the NASCAR deal were hardly a model, as the company barely leveraged its rights to the circuit and is now suing and cutting ties with the driver it sponsored, Mike Borkowski. It will likely announce a new primary car sponsorship in the coming weeks.

NFL EXECS MEET WITH REEBOK: Top marketing executives from each NFL team traveled to Reebok International headquarters in Stoughton, Mass., last week for a powwow with the league's new apparel licensee. The club representatives were hoping to be briefed on what new rights will be handed to teams under revamped licensing guidelines, but the policy changes have not been completed. The league has indicated that teams will be able to control retail distribution of merchandise in their own markets starting next season, but the topic will probably come before owners at league meetings this week before any final decision is made.

OCTAGON TURNOVER: Jack Birch, executive vice president at Octagon, is leaving the company at the end of this week after more than 12 years with the firm. He decided to leave after being offered several other positions within Octagon but not president of the marketing division, which went to New York Mets vice president Mark Bingham. Birch, 39, plans to travel for several months before seeking another job.

GOING FOR THE GOLDFISH: Kurt Warner, Emmitt Smith and Franco Harris are pictured on packages of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers as part of a whimsical promotion that urges consumers to "Vote for Goldfish for MVP." Twelve million packages of Goldfish tout a mail-in and Internet-based sweepstakes, which will give away a trip to the NFL Players Rookie Premiere in Orlando this June (where top draft picks snap photos for their first trading cards). The promotion does not mention the Super Bowl, but Warner, Smith and Harris were all Super Bowl MVPs. Perhaps proving that some people have entirely too much time on their hands, the Vote4Goldfish.com Web site had registered 6,483 votes for Goldfish as MVP as of early last week. The packages first hit the market in late December, and point-of-sale materials are hitting stores now.

Andy Bernstein can be reached at abernstein@amcity.com.

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