SBJ/December 10 - 16, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

WTA Tour’s top stateside sponsor says it won’t renew

The WTA is losing its second-biggest sponsor after title holder Sanex. Wick Simmons, Nasdaq chief executive officer, told the women's tennis circuit last week that the exchange will not renew its presenting sponsorship, which expires at the end of this year. Since European-based Sanex leveraged largely outside the United States, the loss of Nasdaq leaves the WTA without a stateside sponsor heavily leveraging the property. Under the old formula, WTA officials considered Sanex plus the Nasdaq deal to be the equivalent of a global deal.

The $1 million Nasdaq package, completed in March, included net post and sideline signage at all 12 WTA tour stops in North America, on-site promotional activities and player appearances. No word on why Nasdaq is ducking out, although the fact that it is down more than 21 percent for the year certainly had some bearing on it.

The change follows Nasdaq's August switch to ad agency McKinney & Silver from Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer Euro RSCG. Insiders also indicated that Nasdaq was talking to the Ericsson Open about taking a smaller sponsorship at that tournament.

BIG WHO? While Randy Johnson got a lot of notoriety as World Series co-MVP, along with teammate Curt Schilling, so far the Big Unit is doing better commercially in Japan than he is here. A recent tour of Japan by Johnson included numerous television appearances and a TV ad for Aquarius, Coke's Japanese sports drink.

Since the Series, Johnson has racked up a few local/regional deals, such as the Circle K convenience-store chain, headquartered in Phoenix, which signed a two-year, mid-six-figure deal. It will use him in radio and print ads, employ Johnson's likeness for a cup promotion and create a Johnson-themed cereal.

Other new deals are with consumer electronics retailer Showtime Home Entertainment and Rochester Big & Tall shops. As for the new national endorsements?

"Nobody knows who he is yet off the field," insists his agent, Alan Nero, who is chairman/CEO of Skokie, Ill.-based CSMG. "They do know he is the best at what he does, and that's something companies want to be associated with."

MORE MADNESS: DirecTV has renewed its out-of-market NCAA tournament men's hoops package. For the fourth consecutive year, buyers of the $50 Mega March Madness package will have access to out-of-market games. One big change this time around: Local blackout restrictions are lifted if and when CBS switches from a game. Marketing plans for the package, which offers up to 37 out-of-market tourney games, are incomplete.

NEXT STOP: Amtrak may be seeing increased traffic from those too scared to fly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but apparently that increased revenue wasn't enough to save its 3-year-old Major League Baseball sponsorship. Amtrak and MLB have parted ways after three years. While the train category is not one usually exploited for sponsorship, MLB got some activation, using a pair of shortstops, Texas' Alex Rodriguez and Boston's Nomar Garciaparra, in ads. Amtrak was unwilling to step up its sponsorship to the level requested by MLB, sources said.

COMINGS AND GOINGS: Pete Roby, vice president of U.S. marketing at Reebok, is exiting after a decade at the sneaker and apparel brand. The former Harvard hoops coach has not settled on a new job. ... Visa has switched responsibilities of two of its top sponsorship execs. Director of event and sponsorship marketing George Perry had been Visa's NFL guy, since coming from Starter, while fellow director of event and sponsorship marketing and ex-NBA marketer Jen Hemmer handled NASCAR and Triple Crown day-to-day. Now they've flipped properties. ... Sandy Rosenberg to PSP, NY, as Northeast regional sales manager working on programs for every major New York-area pro team, except the New Jersey Devils. Rosenberg was with Strategic Sports Group. ... Scott Norwood (not the one who was wide right with a potential game-winning field goal in the waning seconds of Super Bowl XXV) to MLB Advanced Media as manager of sponsor relations. Norwood was with Promotions.com and 24/7 Media, not the Buffalo Bills. Meanwhile, MLBAM is conducting a search for a marketing director.

Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@amcity.com.

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