SBJ/June 4 - 10, 2001/No Topic Name

Velocity will express itself for big spender Cingular

Velocity Sports & Entertainment has been tapped as the sports marketing agency of record for Cingular Wireless, an account that insiders say is worth approximately $2 million in annual fees.

Cingular, a joint venture between the wireless units of BellSouth and SBC Communications, launched nationally Jan. 1 when the parent companies combined 11 separately branded wireless units. Cingular then spent a whopping $68 million on advertising during January and February alone, according to Competitive Media Reporting, running several memorable television ads from Omnicom's BBDO during the Super Bowl.

Curiously, no Omnicom sports marketing agency was among the finalists for Cingular's business, although sources say Omnicom shops GMR, The Marketing Arm and Millsport were among nine agencies asked to make initial presentations. Career Sports Management, BellSouth's sports marketing agency of record, was the other finalist.

Less than 2 years old, Velocity has carved out a niche in the sports marketing agency marketplace as one of the few midsize players not owned by an advertising conglomerate or a major sports marketing agency. That independence has been one of its primary selling points, as it does not have to work around the potential conflicts that abound at other firms.

The company will handle the strategic and creative end of all of Cingular's sports activity with the exception of Cingular's NASCAR race team sponsorship.

The first task at hand is sifting through the tonnage of proposals Cingular has received from sports properties since its launch. The second is going through the dozens of team and local deals Cingular inherited from BellSouth and SBC. Velocity will create an evaluation system to be applied in all future negotiations and try to develop a strategy that will unify all the sponsorship activity.

Velocity plans to open three additional offices — one in San Francisco, another in either Dallas or Chicago and a third in Atlanta — to handle the new business.

  FORMER YANK FORMS FIRM: Former New York Yankees marketing chief Joe Perello has left the Internet firm UltraStar and formed his own sports marketing consultancy, Perello & Co. He now lists both UltraStar and YankeeNets Properties as clients, along with an impressive roster that includes Modell's Sporting Goods, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, 1-800-Flowers.com, Everlast Worldwide, Standard and Poor's, Isle of Capri Casinos, Asixpoint Inc. and rock star David Bowie. For most, he's handling sponsorship negotiation and strategy, while also dabbling in sponsorship sales.

Perello's goal is to take a page from how pharmaceutical companies market themselves and apply those methods to sports and entertainment.

When he was vice president of new business development for the Yankees, he was deluged with requests from nonprofit health awareness organizations asking to use pictures of uniformed Yankees players in campaigns without paying the standard fee. He knew these organizations were created and backed by self-interested pharmaceutical companies but still felt compelled to comply. The organizations then went out and generated massive media exposure by using the players.

Perello says his agency also will preach this creative, PR-oriented approach to sports marketing to clients from all industries. To that end, he's hired veteran health-care PR executive Marc Wasserman, who served as vice president of the consumer health practice at Hill and Knowlton before joining Jericho Communications.

  YAHOO! EXPANDS WNBA VOTING: Yahoo! Sports will extend its sponsorship of WNBA All-Star voting to paper ballots for the first time. Some 30,000 ballots will be distributed at home games of all 16 WNBA teams June 9-28. Yahoo! also will sponsor the online voting on wnba.com as it did last season, but will step up its support by adding a link to its own site and other promotion on the Yahoo! sports site for the first time. The league will back the balloting effort through a 30-second television commercial airing in league-controlled inventory during WNBA telecasts. The spot won't have any mention of Yahoo! except when it runs on arena video scoreboards.

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

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