SBJ/June 18 - 24, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

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 abernstein@amcity.com.

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