SBJ/November 17 - 23, 2003/Marketingsponsorship

Another candidate for MLB jinx: The curse of the highly promoted

Next to endlessly promoted Fox prime-time fare such as "The Next Joe Millionaire" and "Skin," one of the most ballyhooed bits of commercialism during Fox's World Series broadcasts was the RadioShack-sponsored contest that promised a series of prizes, including "the Ultimate World Series Pass," a pair of World Series tickets for life.

MLB distributed millions of holograms bearing possible winning numbers on licensed merchandise and on 12 million postcards distributed at RadioShack stores. A watch-and-win on the broadcasts of World Series Games 1, 2 and 3 offered holders of the matching numbers a regular-season MLB pass for two (approximate retail value $6,056), a $10,000 shopping spree at mlb.com, a $25,000 shopping spree at RadioShack and, finally, the "Ultimate World Series Pass" (approximate retail value $166,500), which was punctuated by a card-flipping stunt at Pro Player Stadium during Game 4.

In a post-season haunted by jinxes, we're wondering if there's one in play here.

"Skin" was canceled after just three shows due to disastrous ratings. "Joe Millionaire" has been attracting so few viewers that Fox cut it back to once weekly from its original twice-a-week schedule during the crucial November sweeps period. And weeks after Game 4 (Oct. 22), not one of the prizes has been claimed.

Legally, MLB must wait a month, after which it will hold a second-chance drawing among the relatively few contestants who entered by mail. We're hoping the bad luck won't affect RadioShack's MLB sponsorship renewal decision.

As far as we know, nothing untoward has happened to Sprint, the other brand some thought was hyped beyond acceptable limits within Series broadcasts.

SEEKING ITS OWN LEVEL: Add a few more high-visibility teams to Gatorade's team roster. The Pepsi-owned isotonic is close to completing separate marketing deals with the Denver Nuggets and the University of Michigan.

Adding the Nuggets to its roster of NBA clubs gives Gatorade 27 of the league's 29 teams. (The Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz are the only holdouts.)

Gatorade gets the usual seats, cups, coolers and towels at the Pepsi Center. While a letter of intent has been signed, Gatorade is still trying to figure out how lengthy a deal it wants to sign, possibly as long as Pepsi's title sponsorship deal with the Nuggets' home arena, which expires in 2019.

Michigan has signed a seven-year deal, also granting Gatorade the standard branding on seats, cups, towels and coolers. The deal gives Gatorade 63 Division I schools, which include Duke, Notre Dame, Kentucky and Ohio State. Neither deal includes media.

The U.S. Army is near a deal to renew its NASCAR team sponsorship with MB2 Motorsports.

SALUTING NASCAR: The U.S. Army is close to renewing its sponsorship agreement with NASCAR and the MB2 Motorsports entry driven by the Jerry Nadeau racing team. In its first year as a top-level sponsor, the Army spent more than $16 million.

During a presentation last week at an Event Marketer magazine conference in New York City, Col. Thomas Nickerson, director of Strategic Outreach of U.S. Army Accessions Command, said the program exceeded goals in its first year by generating 50,000 leads of possible Army enlistees. The number of actual enlistment contracts signed won't be known until January.

The Army/NASCAR program garnered 79 billion media impressions.

"That equates to $20 million in advertising we didn't have to spend, so we're pretty happy," said Nickerson. For next year, he's planning a program with more interactive elements that can also be used off track, in urban areas to reach a more diverse audience. Relay Sports and Event marketing is the Army's sports marketing agency.

LEBRON'S TEAM IS TRULY CONTINENTAL: The Cleveland Cavaliers have inked a two-year, low-six-figure deal with Continental Airlines. The air carrier gets exclusive promotional rights with the Cavs, along with radio and rotational media and unique Cavs items to auction off for frequent-flier miles, including tickets, clinics and the chance to be a ball boy.

Continental will sponsor an award tied to its "Work Hard, Fly Right" tag line that will be presented at the end of the season to the player voted as the hardest working by fans. Paragon Marketing Group, Skokie, Ill., is Continental's longtime sports marketing agency.

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

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