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SBJ/January 24 - 30, 2005/MarketingsponsorshipPrint All
The Chicago Cubs have entered into an exclusive partnership with Wilson Sporting Goods Co. that will give hundreds of fans a chance to take home authentic gloves from several eras in club history.
On each of four home dates during the 2005 season, the Cubs will hand out 20,000 scratch-and-win cards at the gate, and gloves will be given to the holders of 100 winning cards as well as one randomly selected fan per inning. The promotion features Ernie Banks’ 1963 Wilson A2000 glove model on April 24, a Kerry Wood Wilson A3000 glove on May 20, a Ron Santo 1962 A2000 glove on July 17 and a Greg Maddux 300 Wins Wilson A2000 Limited Edition glove on Aug. 22.
Cubs vice president of marketing and broadcasting John McDonough hatched the promotional idea last May, and he called Wilson executives to see if they still had their old glove patterns and the wherewithal to re-create them. Brian Sullivano, Wilson’s business manager for baseball gloves, called McDonough back with the go-ahead about six weeks later.The Cubs will give away glove models favord by Kerry Wood (top) and Greg Maddux to dozens of fans at selected home games this year.
“It was a unique challenge,” Sullivano said of making the Banks and Santo gloves given the changes in glove molds and materials through the years. “It was a lot of fun to try to rebuild them.”
The Cubs’ deal with Wilson is exclusive for 2005. After that, Wilson can partner with other MLB clubs on similar promotions. The Cubs paid Wilson an undisclosed amount of money to have the gloves made, but the team already has a sponsor for each of the giveaway dates. MBNA will sponsor the Banks glove giveaway, Harris Bank the Wood giveaway, Chevrolet the Santo giveaway and Pepsi the Maddux giveaway.
Team officials declined to comment on any financial details of the deal, including what, if any, arrangements were made with the four participating players.
The promotion comes a year after the Cubs signed an exclusive deal with Mitchell & Ness to produce authentic jerseys for a 12-date premium giveaway. That idea immediately attracted attention from other pro teams. This year, Mitchell & Ness is partnering with the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers on similar giveaways, said Joanne Graham, M&N’s director of team development.
The Cubs will continue their Mitchell & Ness partnership this season with 10 more jersey giveaways, highlighted by their Aug. 14 game, when 100 fans will receive jerseys in the style of the 1984 road jersey of longtime Cubs star and newly elected hall of famer Ryne Sandberg.
McDonough said tapping and preserving the Cubs’ rich history is particularly important at a time when the organization and Wrigley Field are being forced to adapt. One year after installing about 1,000 square feet of new video scoreboards and 200 new premium seats, the Cubs this season will install a rotational sign behind home plate that will generate $4 million to $5 million in new revenue.
“It’s incumbent upon all of us to be as creative as we can,” McDonough said.
No top-tier sports property in North America could operate without sponsorship and its attendant rights fees, advertising and promotional revenue.
So why are sponsors willing to watch while sports properties drive sponsors expensive investments into the dust?
The division of labor between properties and sponsors used to be clear-cut: Properties presented and managed events. They ran their businesses and spared sponsors the operational details.
Sponsors paid the rights fees and integrated their sponsorship investments into brand and product promotional and advertising planning that stretched out years in advance. They trusted properties to run events successfully.
Each party mostly minded its own business. Things have changed now.
Sponsorship rights fees among top-tier sports have skyrocketed. The costs of activating those sponsorships through TV advertising, print and radio collateral have risen.
New media platforms such as the Internet, satellite radio and text messaging have chewed into promotional budgets. Most national sponsors spend many times the rights fees on promotional expenses to extract full value from sponsorships.
Because sponsorships are more expensive than ever, better management supervision is required and return-on-investment demands are higher. But can we say that the management acumen and accountability of sports properties have also risen?
The NHL lockout is an ugly story thats getting worse. The collective-bargaining agreement that tied the league to the NHL Players Association expired last fall.
The NHL, which claims its teams lost $1.8 billion in the last 10 years, wants to link player salaries to team revenue. The NHLPA is demanding that its members receive fair-market value.
There have been no meaningful discussions toward resolving the issue. The 2004-05 season is ruined for the NHL, its sponsors, players and fans. If the stalemate is not concluded in a positive manner soon, the NHL may never return to prominence.
Major League Baseball has adopted a new testing policy designed to stem rampant steroid-abuse rumors and allegations involving some of its biggest stars such as record-pace home-run slugger Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants that could splatter mud on decades-old traditions and achievements.
Sponsors still see value in the return of the NHL, of course. But now theyre sitting in the penalty box.
Major League Baseball maintains support from its sponsor lineup, although steroid-bulked storm clouds are on the horizon. Even the San Francisco Giants are doing well, recently extending their relationship with Bank of America.
But should sponsors, the sports industrys biggest stakeholders, twiddle their thumbs while properties work to heal themselves?
Havent sponsors finally earned a right to be treated as integral business partners with the properties they support? Sponsors should have the opportunity to dig in and help direct the business of the properties they sponsor.
If a sponsor is willing to make a significant long-term financial contribution to a property, that sponsor should have a seat on the propertys executive committee or board of directors.
Many properties dislike this idea because they are insecure about the value they deliver. Some dont want sponsors knowing how much other sponsors pay in rights fees. Theyre worried that proprietary information will leak to rivals.
Some property owners wish to mask from sponsors the wealth they take through their ownership. Others simply dont want supervision.
But the plus side is that if they open the books for big sponsors, theyll get long-term financial support and business expertise they dont have in-house. Sponsors will have a voice in the operations of properties.
Sponsors no longer will be surprised by bad news that can be swept under the rug by properties. And sponsors will have a firm hand in helping properties fight crises.
This is a good time for sponsors to leverage their property investments into meaningful authority. Sponsorship industry think tank International Events Group recently projected that sponsorship rights-fee spending in North America will leap 8.8 percent this year, to $12.09 billion.
This is the highest annual jump in spending since 2000. Sports sponsorship rights fees are expected again to account for the lions share, with $8.3 billion projected to be spent.
Sponsorship also will outpace the growth of other consumer communication and sales channels, such as advertising (projected to grow 6.4 percent in 2005 by McCann-Erickson Worldwide Advertising) and promotional spending (predicted to increase 5.1 percent this year by Veronis Suhler Stevenson).
The bottom line is that sponsors are eager to write checks, and properties are happy to cash those checks. But it is time for the industry to formally recognize the support of its biggest stakeholders and give sponsors a seat at the table.
Contact Mel Poole, president of consulting and marketing firm Sponsor Logic, at email@example.com.
Following are the top-selling jerseys of 2004 according to U.S. retail sales totals compiled by SportScan Info. The totals do not include in-venue sales or those made online. Jersey colors are listed when made available to SportScan Info by individual retailers. Different manufacturers may offer different descriptions for similar, if not identical, products. Jerseys are ranked by units sold both among their respective properties and in the top 100 overall.
The color of money in 2004 was powder blue, with the Denver Nuggets’ Carmelo Anthony taking the top spot in individual jersey sales, according to totals compiled by SportScanInfo.
“Powder blue is the next teal,” said Tom O’Grady, chief branding officer of GamePlan Branding Group Inc., referring to the top-selling teal color of the former Charlotte Hornets franchise in the late 1980s. “The powder blue is a nice color palette, especially when you put it on an engaging player on a team that is on the upswing.”
Anthony’s Swingman style jersey generated more than $14 million in sales last year, according to the SportScan data, topping an Atlanta Falcons/Michael Vick jersey that brought more than $12 million in sales. Jerseys of Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James fill six of the top 20 spots across all sports. Sales of those six James styles account for $43 million, tops for any one athlete. SportScan tracks industry jersey sales in 13,000 U.S. retail stores. While it does not include in-venue or online sales, and sales at Champs Sports and Foot Locker stores aren’trepresented, the totals provides a snapshot of the how fashion helps drive jersey sales.
The NBA and NFL hold all 20 spots of the top-20 ranking across all sports. Major League Baseball doesn’t crack the list until a New York Yankees replica home jersey appears at No. 61. The NHL’s top-selling jersey is a Minnesota Wild replica red jersey; it didn’t register among the top 100 overall.
The black replica jersey of Philadelphia Eagles star Terrell Owens came in at No. 4 overall, but there are signs that black is losing its reputation as a fashion statement in sports uniforms.
“Certain teams like the Oakland Raiders and the Chicago Bulls will“Powder blue is the next teal.”— Tom O’Grady, chief branding officer, GamePlan Branding Group Inc.
The experts expect that Anthony’s powder blue jersey will continue to sell throughout 2005, but they added that star power still pulls sales along with any prevailing fashion trends.
“The light blue will sell for a few years, but fashion isSee also:
A look at other top-selling jerseys of 2004
Neither does the No. 23 jersey of Michael Jordan, which ranked as the 19th best-selling jersey despite that fact that Jordan retired after the 2002-03 season.
“He’s the exception to every rule,” O’Grady said. “He will never go out of style.”