SBJ/September 30 - October 6, 2002/This Weeks Issue

Ad campaigns intersect

The Nashville Predators have recently added several new sponsors and more than doubled the commitment from one, in an unusual deal with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). The highway department is using several sponsorship elements to add some punch to its seatbelt-use and responsible-driving campaigns this year. The idea is to raise TDOT's message above the typical public-service announcement, said Art Victorine, director of the Governor's Highway Safety Office.

The team and TDOT will co-produce two 30-second television spots that begin with star players and law-enforcement officials delivering the message that while the team has nicknamed its arena "Smashville," fans should drive responsibly at all times.

Victorine said the deal cost TDOT just over $500,000, but he said the Predators are giving the state agency considerably more value for the sake of the public-service element. Victorine said TDOT currently has a $100,000 sponsorship with the University of Tennessee and is close to a low-six-figure deal with the Memphis Grizzlies.

State department of transportation money has a large federal component, and some of that money can be used for advertising. Victorine said the Predators deal, which includes a presence at all Gaylord Entertainment Center events, not just hockey games, reaches a core demographic — active young men.

The arena will be festooned with "road sign" signage for TDOT, with messages like "Zamboni Crossing," "Men At Work" and "Puck Speed Limit 100 mph."

"This ties into the Smashville fictional city," said Tom Ward, executive vice president for business operations for the Predators. "We're marrying two campaigns." In addition, there are 27 TDOT-themed signs located at exitways from the arena seating area, Victorine said. The deal is for one year.

The team signed Caterpillar to a multiyear deal that is in the lower half of the team's fee range, according to Ward. The team's Zamboni will be modified to look like a front-end loader and painted Caterpillar colors.

Caterpillar does few deals on the major league level — it sponsored the San Antonio Spurs last year — and this deal came about because it meshed several company aims. Cat Financial, the company's financial arm, is based in Nashville and employs about 1,000 people. And there's a large local dealer network in Tennessee. "So it's really a three-way deal, with Cat Financial, the corporate office and the dealer network," Ward said.

The team added Shell Oil and Ford as new sponsors this year, in deals in the lower half of its fee range. The Shell deal coincides with the rebranding of its Tennessee Texaco stations and will involve 10 live remote radio broadcasts with team players from Shell stations around the area. A wide range of stations will be used to increase the reach, Ward said.

The Ford deal brings the team its fifth car sponsor, as Ford joins Toyota, Mercedes, Chevrolet and Dodge. The deal is for signage, media and tickets. "In this market, you may not have one automaker who can swallow the sponsorship pill," Ward said.

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