SBJ/November 12 - 18, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

Got Milk? gets its name on NBA’s rookie all-star game, replacing Schick

America's Dairy Farmers and Milk Processors, the consortium better known as the "Got Milk?" people, is in as title sponsor of the NBA rookie all-star game. The game has become one of the fixtures at the NBA's all-star weekend.

The agricultural co-op is in the second year of a two-year deal as an NBA promotional partner that has it spending millions of dollars across a wide range of NBA media. Sources differed on whether the league was able to get any incremental media dollars from the deal.

The creative possibilities for milk and rookies are strong, even if the Got Milk? Rookie Challenge doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. The longtime sponsor of the rookie game had been Schick, so the NBA gets a slightly younger demographic this time around. As was the case with Schick, Milk will get title sponsorship of the NBA's rookie of the month and year honors. It also expects to add some high-visibility first-year players to its roster of NBA talent, which now consists of Kevin Garnett.

The rookie game title sponsorship has been expanded to include rights to the NBA draft, which gives the league a rare year-round marketing platform. Schick had sponsored the league's rookie game since 1993 and was an NBA sponsor since 1983, but it has shifted marketing away from hoops after its acquisition by Pfizer.

COWBOYS RIDE AGAIN: The only way any current Dallas Cowboy is going to Super Bowl XXXVI is with the pair of tickets each NFL player gets gratis. Two key members of the Cowboys' three championship squads of the 1990s, however, are getting more exposure in some coming TV spots.

Troy Aikman has signed an endorsement deal with Miller Brewing Co. that should have the ex-quarterback in TV and point-of-sale ads before the end of the year.

Ex-jocks signing with beer brands has become de rigueur since Coors launched its "Originals" campaign a few years back with John Elway. Since then, Coors has used Hank Aaron, Barry Sanders, Bobby Hull and Bill Russell to sell its suds. What's intriguing about the Aikman deal is that he didn't sign with Coors, the No. 3 beer brand, although the competition did help elevate his fee.

The question is whether Miller, which once employed more ex-jocks than anyone during the heyday of Miller Lite, is getting back into that business or just snatching up Aikman to stop Coors from doing so. Given the timing, Aikman could be used in Miller's annual Super Bowl promotion. Miller has promo rights for the big game; Anheuser-Busch has commercial exclusivity on the game itself.

Meanwhile, Emmitt Smith, one of the few active players from the Cowboys' most recent glory days, is slated to appear in a Visa commercial that will be shot later this month in New York for BBDO. The ad will push the card's new "Verified by Visa" program, an Internet security feature that allows cardholders to add a password to guarantee additional security when making online purchases. The spots have various impostors claiming to be celebrities before Smith comes on camera. He makes the point that, just as he is who he says is, so Verified by Visa makes sure the person using the Visa card for an online purchase is the person whose name is on the card.

PACERS BOSS WEARS BOSS: Indiana Pacers coach Isiah Thomas has signed a deal that will have him wearing Hugo Boss suits on NBA sidelines for the next three years. The move marks a bit of departure for the clothier, which had put most of its marketing eggs in the golf basket via a deal with Phil Mickelson and some other duffers. Hugo Boss also has a deal with Stephon Marbury, which is particularly curious since the Phoenix guard doesn't have a deal for sneakers, which are visible on court. Goal Marketing, New York, handles marketing for Thomas.

Terry Lefton can be reached

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