SBJ/November 12 - 18, 2001/This Weeks Issue

Motorola renews with NFL for $105M

Motorola has renewed its corporate sponsorship with the NFL in a deal sources say is worth $105 million over five years. That's a 5 percent premium over the current sponsorship, which had the wireless telecom hardware manufacturer paying $20 million a year.

Motorola, the NFL's wireless telecommunications sponsor since the 1999-2000 season, made its new deal with six months remaining on the old one.

The rights in the new deal are about the same as those in the old one. Motorola logos will continue to appear on coaches' headsets, and the company will remain as a sponsor of the NFL Quarterback and Coaches clubs.

But Motorola has made a larger commitment in club marketing and national media spending. Under the old deal, Motorola had to spend $3 million a year on media — a rate it has been exceeding. Motorola has told NFL sponsorship officials it will do additional promotions.

In a year when the NFL faces key renewal negotiations in prime categories like beer, soda and candy, bagging one of its largest deals early is a plus for the league.

"In uncertain times overall and a really tough environment in sports sponsorships, we think this is a reflection of what we can deliver to sponsors," said Jim Schwebel, senior vice president of corporate sponsorships at NFL Properties.

It is also testimony to the health of the wireless telecommunications market, one of the few segments of the distressed telecom market that is showing profit and thus still spending freely on marketing.

The sponsorship deal is for Motorola hardware. NFL clubs continue to sell lucrative local deals to cell-phone service providers. Still, in many cases, Motorola works with the local service provider that also sponsors the local NFL team. The NFL reserves the right to sell separate long-distance deals, which are included in the Motorola pact.

At a time when few sports sponsorships are selling, the renewal underscores the indelible value of the NFL sidelines. Industry estimates on the worth of the branding on NFL coaches' headsets received under the deal range from the tens of millions to the hundreds of millions of dollars.

And while you cannot buy the headsets, millions of Americans see their favorite coaches wearing them every week on NFL sidelines. Their ubiquity on NFL broadcasts has allowed Motorola to position itself as being as integral a part of the NFL game as uniforms and Gatorade.

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