SBJ/20011224/Marketing/Sponsorship

NFL is owed $605K payment by National Car Rental; others aren’t so lucky

National Car Rental, the official rent-a-car of the NFL since 1999, gets the ignominy of becoming the first league sponsor to default on payments. Bankruptcy Court filings of parent company ANC Rental, which filed for Chapter 11 reorganization last month, show that National is in the final year of a three-year NFL pact, but owes a final payment of $605,000.

The NFL money owed, however, pales in comparison with the $10 million-plus National owes ABC for a large Bowl Championship Series ad package. Another large Disney-owed debt is the $3.8 million National has been paying annually to be title sponsor of the PGA Tour's National Car Rental Golf Classic at Walt Disney World, a contract that runs through 2002. While it wasn't listed as a creditor, you'd have to wonder what will become of National's naming-rights deal for the Sunrise, Fla., arena that houses the NHL Panthers.

NFL marketers are not yet selling the car rental category, but expect to be back on the street with it soon.

SWOOPES PLAYS TO MOMS: Distaff hoops star Sheryl Swoopes has signed a one-year, low-six-figure endorsement deal with WNBA sponsor Johnson & Johnson. Already in the can is a spot from McCann-Erickson, New York, that features Swoopes in and out of uniform along with her son, Jordan, in the latest iteration of J&J's brand campaign. The spot plays to moms. Tag line: "Just like you, J&J cares about how your kids feel."

Under the deal cut by Octagon's marketing division, Swoopes will do appearances, and J&J has the rights to air the commercial outside the United States. An earlier spot in the campaign featured musician Shawn Colvin.

REEBOK'S RHYTHM: Reebok continues to be the most active sports marketer among sneaker brands. The latest weapon in the No. 2 sneaker brand's arsenal is presenting sponsorship of the NBA's Rhythm 'N Rims concert tour, an event that Yahoo! held title to last season.

The spring outdoor music fest will expand from 14 to 18 cities in 2002. Reebok hopes to use the platform to enhance its positioning as the "young man's brand." It plans to add a Reebok-branded court, possible slam-dunk contests, sampling and player appearances and exhibit its growing line of NBA licensed apparel on site. It hopes to tie in a national sporting goods retailer to its sponsorship.

NODDER NEWS: Look for even more bobbleheaded promotions next year, but from consumer marketers as opposed to teams trying to build attendance.

McDonald's St. Louis-area franchisees are close to completing a deal that would have them pushing Cardinals bobbles in April; the Carl's Jr. chain will follow up its massively successful San Francisco Giants program in the Bay area with similar programs in Sacramento for the NBA Kings and in Colorado for the Stanley Cup champion Avalanche.

MBNA, well-known for rewarding those who sign up for its affinity cards with promotional merchandise, is next. The payment-card issuer, which holds card rights for MLB, NFL, NHL and NASCAR, will distribute a nodding red-white-and-blue Super Bowl jester figure to those who sign up outside NFL playoff games and at the Super Bowl. NFL licensee Team Beans, which has bought exclusivity in the vital Super Bowl bobblehead category, is also selling a companion piece in New Orleans during the week of the big game.

COMINGS AND GOINGS: XFL President Basil DeVito has set up a TV and sports marketing consultancy, IX Sports & Entertainment, based within the Stamford, Conn., headquarters of the WWF. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association is its first client. ... Tom Beusse to senior vice president/managing director at Rodale's Men's Health sports and fitness group, a group of magazines that also includes Runner's World. The former Sports Illustrated marketer was one of many industry types who jumped to Broadband Sports during the Internet craze. ... John Frascotti is exiting Myteam.com, where he's been president/chief operating officer for two years since leaving Reebok, where he headed sports marketing. ... Former Rawlings vice president of marketing John Hodgins has left the sporting goods brand. His responsibilities have been absorbed by Chief Marketing Officer Stan Morrison.

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

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