SBJ/January 14 - 20, 2002/Marketingsponsorship

Big Blue signs shorter deal with longtime partner USTA

Longtime U.S. Tennis Association corporate sponsor IBM has re-signed in a one-year, low-seven-figure deal. IBM retains its broad rights in the computers/information technology/information services sectors. It will continue to run the scoring system at the U.S. Open and run the usta.com and usopen.org Web sites, the latter of which attracted more than 2 million unique users during the most recent tourney.

While IBM has been a USTA sponsor since 1992 and is coming off a four-year sponsorship pact, sources said the one-year deal was well-suited for both sides' current needs. The USTA is trying to determine if it can get more money in the future by carving up the information category, while IBM is in the midst of an evaluation of its entire sports sponsorship portfolio. IBM also sponsors Wimbledon, the Australian Open and the French Open.

ENVISION TO SELL PHILLIES RIGHTS: The Philadelphia Phillies have hired Envision to sell naming rights for the team's new ballpark. Envision beat out IMG, among others, for the deal. The new 43,000-seat stadium is under construction in the shadow of Veterans Stadium, which has housed the Phils since 1971. It is scheduled to open in time for the 2004 season.

"Even if we end up doing a deal with a local company, Envision gives us a national cachet," said Dave Buck, the Phillies' vice president of ad sales and marketing. Envision also is selling naming rights for buildings that include SkyDome in Toronto and the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. "And we're convinced that they'll make a better deal that will more than cover their fee," Buck said.

Industry analysts have estimated that the stadium could attract as much as $3 million a year in naming rights. Since the Phillies control and sell their airtime, expect any deal to be heavily media-weighted.

KFC THROWS A BONE TO DA BEARS: Fast feeder Kentucky Fried Chicken, which hasn't used jocks in its ads since hiring George Foreman a few years back, is using Jim McMahon and William "Refrigerator" Perry, two heroes of Super Bowl XX, in a forthcoming spot. The ad will push the consumption of KFC's wings at Super Bowl bashes (though KFC, without official rights, will not be able to use the term Super Bowl) and thus will break about two weeks before the Feb. 3 game.

Sharing the spotlight with the ex-Bears will be a star of more recent vintage, Jason Alexander. He has been appearing in KFC ads since September, when the restaurant chain introduced its "There's fast food, and there's KFC" tag line. BBDO is the agency. Assuming the latest ad holds true to form, former "Seinfeld" co-star Alexander will arrive at a Super Bowl bash just in time to save Perry and McMahon from consuming competitors' fast food.

NTRA LOOKS TO EX-IOC MARKETER: Looking to beef up its sponsorship sales, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association has brought on Gordon Kane as an outside sales consultant. The former IOC marketer left Internet sports marketing firm Ignite Sports after two years to hang out his own shingle as Victory Sports Marketing in Chicago.

" 'Official sponsor' as a consumer term is dead," Kane said. "Sponsors need to demand more meaningful associations with their properties." With just a handful of sponsors thus far, the NTRA is targeting luxury cars, telecom and additional financial services to buy its media-laden sponsorship packages.

HERE AND THERE: Sure, the return of Michael Jordan has helped lift sales of NBA licensed product, but NBA licensing czar Sal LaRocca said that even without factoring in MJ merchandise, licensed-product sales are up single digits. With Jordan, they've increased double digits. ... Car insurance brand Geico has bought a lot of sports advertising, but now it is investing in its first athlete. The company signed golfer Joe Durant to a one-year, six-figure deal that will get the brand on the left side of Durant's golf shirt. Durant was No. 14 on the PGA money list last season. Geico also will get some visibility on Durant's caddy, yet to be determined. Octagon handles sports marketing for Geico. ... Who says dot.coms aren't buying sports anymore? Expedia.com has purchased a $2 million block of NBC's Olympic cable time. ... Former Nike and Adidas marketer Bob Nagel has moved to Vans as senior vice president of U.S. sales and apparel.

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

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