SBJ/March 18 - 24, 2002/Marketingsponsorship

Schwab this: Gatorade retakes the BCS sidelines

Since Gatorade developed much of the sports marketing inventory now taken for granted on sidelines, such as branded coolers, cups and towels, it never took kindly to imitators. Accordingly, Charles Schwab's Bowl Championship Series sponsorship deal, which included cooler signage rights, was about as popular at Gatorade as a case of Powerade, especially since the majority of colleges and universities playing those BCS games had their own Gatorade deals.

So, after years of jokes about quenching your thirst with a mutual fund, Gatorade decided to take more decisive action. It has bought a BCS sponsorship deal that puts the Gatorade brand on cups, coolers and towels on BCS sidelines, beginning next year through 2006.

No word on the price tag. The seven-figure BCS deals are normally heavily weighted with media, however, and December and January are not months in which Gatorade typically buys much advertising. The BCS deal comes as part of a larger ABC/ESPN purchase by the isotonic category leader.

  MLBPA PAYDAY: Despite the threat of a labor stoppage, baseball sponsors and licensees continue to activate their rights in record fashion. On the players association side, general manager of licensing Richard White said promotion and sponsorship revenue is up more than 50 percent. Most of the increase is due to a Nestlé MLBPA-only promo and to promos using licenses from both MLB and the MLBPA-licensed promos: Post Cereals' 22 million MLB player-identified mini-bobbleheads and a variety of national and local MLB programs from Pepsi.

As reported previously, Pepsi's national programs include All-Star balloting and a June promo at Subway that features four cups bearing the likeness of six players on each. And 7-Eleven plans a national player cup promo in April. Frito-Lay, which gains MLB rights for Crackerjack through Pepsi's expanded sponsorship deal, plans a mini-trading card promotion using 40 players.

Pepsi also plans regional trading card promotions for multipacks in Arizona during July, with similar promos in Seattle for the Mariners, in the Midwest for the White Sox, Brewers and Twins, and in Northern California for the A's. The A's deal is worth noting, since the players association licensed Coke for a similar trading card promotion in San Francisco for the Giants before cutting its Pepsi deal.

Among the new deals being done with an MLBPA license only is one that will put trading cards without MLB logos in 17 million boxes of Nestlé Drumstick novelty ice cream in June.

Bobblehead promos are still strong: McDonald's in St. Louis will use Fernando Vina, J.D. Drew, Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds of the Cardinals, and Carl's Jr. will reprise last year's promo using Robb Nen, Rich Aurilia, Barry Bonds and Tsuyoshi Shinjo of the Giants.

The Rawlings ball for Opening Day will be one of 10 special-event spheres this year.

  MORE BALLS: Continuing the patriotic theme it ended on last season, MLB licensing will have teams open this season with Rawlings commemorative baseballs featuring a version of the silhouetted batter trademark done as an American flag. The stitching on the balls will be red and blue.

MLB plans at least 10 special-event balls this year, including more patriotic balls for Memorial Day, July 4 and Sept. 11. Special balls also will be used for the All-Star Game, World Series, Home Run Derby, the last game at Cincinnati's Cinergy Field and the Futures Game.

This is the second year of the expanded MLB ball program. Rawlings executive vice president of sales and marketing Stan Morrison said special-event balls could represent as much as a third of all ball sales this season.

  SIGNS OF SPRING: ANC has installed rotational signs in two new parks for the upcoming MLB season: at PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Shea Stadium in New York. Both parks will have rotational signage behind home plate, behind first and third base and behind the outfield wall. ANC signage is now in 11 of the 27 major league stadiums that have rotational signage.

 MLBAMMERS: New mlb.com sponsors for the coming season: Clarinex, Continental Airlines, DirecTV, Nextel, Post Cereals, Rolaids, Sports Illustrated, Topps and Wyndham Hotels. Returning sponsors are Marriott, MasterCard, MBNA, Real Networks and Sun.

 COMINGS AND GOINGS: Tom Worcester to senior vice president/head of sales and the top revenue executive at the new Gravity Games, now a joint venture of NBC, Primedia and Octagon. The 3-year-old games are trying to expand globally and erase the lead ESPN's X Games have as a category generic in the extreme sports field. ... Former Cubs marketer Jim Gutierrez joins Dorna as an account executive heading the company's new Chicago sales office.

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

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