SBJ/June 18 - 24, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

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  • Inside the Deal


    Supermarket chain Rainbow Foods signs sponsorship deal with the WNBA Minnesota Lynx.




    One year


    Pat Liska, president, Rainbow Foods; Chris Wright, senior vice president-chief marketing officer, Minnesota Lynx


     Category exclusivity

      Sponsorship of bobblehead doll giveaway at two games

      Sponsorship of Rainbow Foods Fun Pack

      In-store appearances (12) of Lynx players

      Rotational and fixed signs at Target Center for Lynx games

      Two 30-second radio commercials plus in-game feature on all Lynx broadcasts

      Two 30-second television commercials plus in-game feature on all Lynx broadcasts

      Title sponsorship of Fan Appreciation Night

      Co-title sponsorship of "Sea of Green" promotion to encourage fans to dress in green for nationally televised game in July


    To receive one of the bobblehead dolls, fans will need to buy a Rainbow Foods Bobblehead Fun Pack. This $30 package includes a bobblehead doll voucher, four $10 general admission tickets to a selected Lynx game and one $5 Rainbow Foods gift certificate. The package can be bought only at Ticketmaster locations inside Rainbow Foods.

    Rainbow, based in Hopkins, Minn., has been a multiyear sponsor of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Wright, who also heads marketing for the Timberwolves, is negotiating with Rainbow for a renewal of its package.


    WNBA teams aren't given much territory by the league for sponsorship sales. The grocery store category is available to local teams, but the league requires that only one-year deals can be signed. This category has the potential to be one of the biggest opportunities for WNBA teams given the predominantly female fan base (72 percent of the fans at Lynx games are women). Few major sponsors, however, want one-year deals, especially in a competitive category like grocery stores. The deal with the Lynx has extra value for Rainbow as it gives the company a year-round promotional platform, assuming a renewal deal is struck with the Timberwolves. This is a bargain for Rainbow, especially if it can defer some cost to its vendors. Rainbow gets a great promotion to drive store traffic plus some strong additional visibility elements.

    Alan Friedman ( is founder of Team Marketing Report.

    Print | Tags: Basketball, Marketing and Sponsorship, Minnesota Lynx, Minnesota Timberwolves, WNBA
  • NBA playoffs invite a shoot-around of pointed questions, free advice

    So many thoughts, so little space. Many idle hours spent watching the NBA playoffs have put these thoughts in my mind.

     What happened to NBA sponsor-driven promotions? The NBA is a league that, to a great extent, owes its popularity to promotional campaigns run by its sponsors. During the broadcasts on NBC, however, there's not much visibility for NBA sponsors. Nestlé does run a smart campaign using Shaquille O'Neal that features footage from past games, but that's about it. Kobe Bryant is used (out of uniform) in spots for Adidas and McDonald's that do little to enhance the image of the player or the league. Where are such league sponsors as IBM, Schick and American Express during the broadcasts?

      What would happen if the teleprompter used by Ahmad Rashad stopped working? I get the feeling the nation would see an unprecedented display of panic.

      NBC commentator P.J. Carlesimo might have keen observations on the game, but he comes off as grating and annoying. Perhaps that's why viewers were treated to concerts by U2 and Destiny's Child instead of 10 minutes of observations by the former coach.

      While his efforts in the NBA Finals may propel Allen Iverson into mainstream endorsement deals, that's not a bet most advertisers will take. The playoff platform has helped Iverson become more visible, and his performance has been gutsy and inspiring. His appeal, though, still won't go mainstream. He's perfect for selling shoes for Reebok, but I don't see him pitching Campbell's Chunky Soup any time in the near future. It's still a slow market for athlete endorsers, and only those with unassailable reputations will be able to cross over out of basketball-endemic products.

      The NBA does a masterful job of filling the broadcast with messages to support its programs. Spots for its Read to Achieve campaign are well done. Its short commercials that show the evolution of the game from past greats like Julius Erving to current stars like Bryant send a clear reminder: The top players now will be the legends of the future, so you better watch them while they're here.

      No start-up sports league has ever had a better marketing partnership than the WNBA. The league is generously promoted by the NBA through in-game spots and courtside signage. The commercials for the league, however, come off as disingenuous. The supposed bus tour by WNBA players is filmed to look like an unstaged and spontaneous event, but the overly enthusiastic reception by the fans mocks the credibility of the ads. The league should use this platform to introduce viewers to its likable group of players.

      Note to NBA teams: Don't think a restaging of the NBC/NBA halftime "Weakest Link" program will be a fresh idea for your halftime entertainment next season. It was a forced idea that looked uncomfortable for all the participants.

    Alan Friedman ( is founder of Team Marketing Report.

    Print | Tags: Adidas, Basketball, Dallas Stars, Marketing and Sponsorship, NBA, NBC, Reebok, WNBA
  • Pro Access will mass sponsors for Smith's record run

    When Barry Sanders retired while in striking distance of Walter Payton's all-time NFL rushing record, it stopped a "Run for the Record" marketing program dead in its tracks and forced sponsors like General Mills to abort promotional activity they had planned for months.

    Enter Emmitt Smith, who sits 104 yards behind Sanders and just 1,561 yards behind Payton.

    Pro Access, the company that developed the Sanders marketing platform, has formed a partnership with Smith's business manager, Warner Scott, to create a "Run with History" program tied to Smith.

    They will soon hit the market with sponsorship packages ranging from the low six figures all the way up to more than $1 million for the title rights. NFL sponsors who buy into the program most likely will pick up rights to picture Smith in his Cowboys uniform and use a special Run with History and NFL shield composite logo, for which NFL Properties has granted preliminary approval. Scott and Pro Access also are in talks with the Cowboys about adding a team rights component, one that would allow Dallas-area sponsors (in categories not controlled by the league office) to picture Smith in uniform while using team marks.

    Going one step further than anything done with Sanders, a concurrent charity element called "Help Emmitt Help Kids" will attempt to raise $22 million for schools. While the Run with History platform will offer category exclusivity to sponsors, Help Emmitt Help Kids will be what Scott called an "open platform," involving a widespread appeal to both corporations and consumers.

    An outdoor, direct-mail and Internet-based campaign behind Help Emmitt Help Kids will be managed by charitable fund-raising specialist Kintera Inc. in conjunction with Scott's company, Advantage Marketing Group. Scott, who was an early investor in Kintera, announced an alliance with the company last week. He has invested in several companies aligned with Advantage, part of a strategy to expand the reach of his company through both acquisitions and partnership agreements.

    For the Smith charity program, most of the funds raised will go directly to schools and children's programs, but Advantage and Kintera will each collect a 10 percent management fee.

    Smith will not make any money from the charity program, Scott said. But should the Run with History catch some wind, it stands to make Smith a top earner in endorsement income once again, after all his previous deals expire. Scott said he intentionally kept Smith off the market for the last couple of years to make him a "free agent" when the record approached and Smith was healthy again (he missed most of two seasons because of injury).

    Sponsors will be able to sign on starting this season, but Smith is not expected to break the record until 2002.

     NIKE'S “HAIR” JORDAN: Some credit Michael Jordan with making bald a hot look of the last decade. Can he inspire a fad in haircuts, too? Indirectly, perhaps.

    Nike Inc.'s Jordan brand is running a promotion behind the Aug. 4 launch of the Air Jordan XVI Low in which 20 to 25 top barbers in three cities will be commissioned to create a haircut inspired by the shoe. Then the barbers will gather at events in New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles and give the haircuts free to about 400 people, with hip-hop music pumping in the background and celebrities on hand.

    Company officials said they came up with the idea because they learned through urban male focus groups that barber shops are the site of much of the underground communication that sets fashion trends.

    The haircuts will be called "The Convertible," a reference to the new shoe's key design feature: the ability to convert from a high-top to a low-top by folding over a flap and fastening it with built-in magnets. The event will be hyped by local radio stations that first will tease "Get a free convertible" before explaining what that means.

    San Antonio Spurs point guard Derek Anderson, the featured athlete behind the launch, and Jordan brand President Larry Miller will select a winning haircut among those offered by the barbers, and then submit to having their own locks shaped in that style.

    Anderson appears in a print ad breaking in August periodicals, under the tag line "Much Respect ... to the ballers." "Much Respect" is the umbrella theme behind all Jordan brand advertising this year.

    The company also developed a 48-page custom published magazine called Much Respect with features on product design and Team Jordan athletes. It will be mailed to 65,000 members of the Jordan fan club and distributed at Jordan events and through Niketown stores.

    Jordan himself will not be involved in the activity behind the XVI Low launch.

      MLL SIGNS MERRILL LYNCH: Major League Lacrosse has signed Merrill Lynch & Co. to a two-year deal as a sponsor in the financial services category. Terms and length of the agreement were not disclosed, but the league has said its other top-tier sponsors are paying about $500,000 annually. Merrill Lynch will place its logo on the uniforms of the Boston Cannons and will pick up fieldboard advertising during every game, along with two to four television commercial units and a sponsored "Coach's Close-up" feature during each game telecast. The company will sponsor the annual coach of the year award and will provide cash management accounts to each player in the league.

    Andy Bernstein can be reached at

    Print | Tags: Dallas Cowboys, ESPN, Major League Lacrosse, Marketing and Sponsorship, Merrill Lynch, NFL, San Antonio Spurs
  • Sponsorship briefs

     Tropicana signs with Mutiny

    Tropicana Products Inc. signed a sponsorship deal with the Tampa Bay Mutiny that calls for a prize giveaway and support of the Major League Soccer team's annual July 4 match. Tropicana will offer an eight-week retail program, starting in July, at 100 Kash 'n Karry supermarkets throughout the Tampa area, where shoppers can register to win a one-week trip for two to England to attend a Premiership soccer match. The company, based in Bradenton, Fla., also will be title sponsor of the team's July 4 match against New York/New Jersey.

      Bud's the beer at Invesco

    Anheuser-Busch Cos. agreed to a deal making its Budweiser brand the exclusive beer advertiser in the Denver Broncos' new Invesco Field at Mile High, scheduled to open this fall. The deal also provides for a hospitality area in the stadium to be named the Budweiser Champions Club.

      MAAC hires Positive Impact

    The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference hired sports and entertainment management company Positive Impact to study its 10 member schools' athletic marketing, sponsorship and ticket-sales programs.

      Excite@Home cuts Cheever ties

    Excite@Home severed its sponsorship ties with Cheever Indy Racing. The company had sponsored the team's No. 51 car in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series this year. An Excite@Home representative said the move was made to enable the company to redirect its marketing.

      Capitol to sponsor golf event

    Raleigh-based Capitol Broadcasting signed as a media sponsor of the annual Jimmy V Celebrity Golf Classic. The event, held in honor of former North Carolina State University men's basketball coach Jim Valvano, raised $1.85 million last year for cancer research.

    Print | Tags: Denver Broncos, ESPN, Marketing and Sponsorship
  • Sportsbusiness Journal/ESPN Sports Poll

    From May 2000 through April, ESPN Sports Poll, a service of TNS Intersearch, surveyed more than 24,000 sports fans. Listed here is part one of a two-week series detailing the demographics of boxing fans. To read: 24.9 percent of avid boxing fans are African-American. Note: 39.6 percent of the U.S. population are boxing fans and 11.0 percent are avid boxing fans.

    Household income 18+
    Under $20,000
    $150,000 +

    Print | Tags: ESPN, Marketing and Sponsorship
  • Summer hit: BMW's action 'movie' is creating a trailer full of buzz

    BMW Films
    Behind the Advertising: BMW North America, LLC
    President: Tom Purves
    VP, marketing: Jim McDowell
    Production: Anonymous Content
    Chairman: Steve Golin
    Executive producer: David Fincher
    Directors: John Frankenheimer, Ang Lee, Wong Kar-Wai, Guy Ritchie, Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu

    Every now and then, you catch a glimpse of the future. And if you've been watching the NBA playoffs, perhaps you've seen it. It's television advertising from BMW USA, but it's much more than meets the eye.

    The TV commercials appear to be, at first glance, movie trailers for the kind of popcorn movies Hollywood has made into its standard summer fare. But it turns out the trailers are teasers. They are not trying to draw us to a theater box office. They are designed to drive us two places: first, to a Web site ( where full versions of six- and seven-minute films BMW has produced are available to download; and second (and with far more subtlety), to BMW dealers.

    What BMW has done is create a mini-festival of digital movies in a series called The Hire, which have been crafted by some of the world's best-known directors. Ang Lee ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), John Frankenheimer ("The Manchurian Candidate") and Guy Ritchie ("Snatch") are among the A-list directors hired for BMW USA by Anonymous Content, the series' production company run by Steve Golin and executive producer David Fincher.

    Fincher, one of many top commercial directors who has made the jump into feature films ("Seven"), has now signaled a third phase of evolution: from small screen to big screen to PC monitor. Fincher supervised the scripting and storyboarding but ceded the directing duties to Anonymous Content's all-star team.

    The stories are glued together only by the presence of British actor Clive Owen, who plays a driver-for-hire who simply does what the situation requires in every case. In Frankenheimer's "Ambush," Owen's job is to get a mysterious diamond courier past an attempted hijacking. In Ritchie's "Star," it is to get an arrogant rock goddess to the venue. In every case, he does, in death-defying, pedal-to-the-metal stunt driving.

    The movies work because each is engaging as a stand-alone piece. They also work because, despite the big-name directors, the real star is the car. Each movie uses, and occasionally nearly destroys, a different BMW model. While the plot of the stories is not always gripping, one cannot help but think that if BMW paid to have episodes run in theaters before certain features, some episodes would be far more enjoyable than the movies patrons were paying to see (attention "Battlefield Earth" customers).

    The approach works as a total concept for a lot of reasons, but one above all: Despite the high cost of each episode (more than $2 million) and the costs of streaming video over the Web and airing clips as television commercials (which more than double the production budget), the groundbreaking approach has created an event-type buzz, which BMW has manufactured and ridden for all it's worth. The PR value alone will probably end up exceeding the program's budget by a factor of at least five.

    In a densely cluttered advertising environment and in a category where most auto advertising looks desperately alike, BMW stands apart and, as a leader should, looks good doing it.

    If the idea falters anywhere, it is primarily due to the inherent limitations of experiencing Internet-based video content. The movie files are huge Quicktime-format downloads, about 80 MB each. So even with a fast, broadband connection to the Internet, to view the movies on a screen that is generally about one-sixth the size of a full computer monitor, one must endure a download wait that is much longer than the duration of the movie itself.

    BMW USA's bold move into integrated TV/online event advertising is a tactic that other advertisers will certainly copy. How long will it be before we see an online comedy series from a beer company, a long-form music special from a soft drink or a sports special from a shoe company?

    Start your stopwatches.

    James H. Harris ( is CEO of the Chicago-based strategic marketing consultancy ThoughtStep Inc.

    Print | Tags: BMW, Marketing and Sponsorship, NBA
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