SBJ/20050606/Marketing/Sponsorship

CompUSA ‘looks good’ to become U.S. Olympic sponsor head

CompUSA is negotiating a sponsorship agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee. Sources familiar with the talks said nothing has been signed yet, but the decision to proceed with what would be the technology retailer’s largest sponsorship expenditure is “looking good.” Given that “USA” is an integral part of the retailer’s brand name, the creative ties afforded by a USOC sponsorship are extensive. One also might expect some kind of pass-through rights to be afforded as part of the deal. Two sponsors that might be considered competitors, Office Depot and Gateway, dropped their USOC sponsorships at the end of last year.

A U.S. Olympic deal would be the retailer's largest sponsorship expenditure.
CompUSA has about 230 U.S. stores. Outside of motorsports, where it is a major sponsor of Chip Ganassi Racing, it has not been a big sports sponsorship spender of late. CompUSA once had deals with MLB and was title sponsor of the Florida Citrus Bowl. However, the retailer’s marketing has gone through a face-lift of late, with a new CMO joining last July and The Richards Group being named its new ad agency in February.

FACE-LIFT: Spalding, one of the country’s most venerable sporting goods brands, is getting a face-lift with a new “Circle S” logo and tag line, “True to the Game.” Ads using the new tag line should break early next year.

“We’re about ‘no glitz, no hype,’ yet we want to maintain our heritage and enable athletes with the best performing equipment. We’re true and we respect sports, so that’s what we were trying to communicate,” said vice president of marketing Dan Touhey.

Since its purchase, Russell Corp. has combined Spalding with two other acquisitions, American Athletic and Huffy Sports, to form The Spalding Group. “We’re obviously establishing Spalding as a basketball power, but we want to be more consistent across all athletic apparel and footwear,” Touhey said.

ACTIONABLE: The NBC-Clear Channel Dew Action Sports Tour begins this week in Louisville, Ky., and before an event has been staged, television inventory is 95 percent sold, with the remaining inventory reserved for possible deals with movie studios. A last-minute addition at the supplier level is the U.S. Air Force, which will get some air time and hopes to draw recruits from the heavy teen demo on site. The Air Force also could provide fly-overs and color guard appearances. Other suppliers are apparel company Fox Riders Co., bag maker Ogio and MasterCraft, an interesting choice since there are no water events on the tour. The boat maker will provide boats as prizes in Dew Tour-related contests.

“What we’re really excited about is the level of activation we’re getting for a new property,” said Wade Martin, the tour’s GM. Oxy and Peanut Chews are using the tour to relaunch their brands, while companies like Pepsi (Mountain Dew) and Panasonic have produced action sports-related TV advertising.

As for ticket sales? “We’ve been operating under the assumption that this is pretty much a walk-up crowd,” said Martin, offering projections of 75,000 to 100,000 for each of the five tour stops.

The NFL plans a winter wonderland of marketing during this year's holiday season.
HOLIDAY HUDDLE: The NFL has been marketing around the Thanksgiving holiday for several years now, including a float in last year’s Macy’s Parade. This year, its holiday marketing runs from Turkey Day through New Year’s Day. The calendar calls for Christmas and New Year’s Day to fall on Sundays, causing the NFL to move the bulk of its Sunday schedule to Saturday. The league is taking advantage of the scheduling peculiarity with an “NFL Holiday Blitz” marketing campaign that will include a holiday ad effort and accompanying retail promotions.

One planned thematic is “Five Days of Football,” designed to promote tune-in for games on Dec. 24 (13 games), Dec. 25 (two games), Dec. 26 (“Monday Night Football”), Dec. 31 (two games) and Jan. 1 (14 games).

Consumers will be asked to register on a dedicated nfl.com holiday page that will award prizes daily during the holidays with NFL broadcasters supporting on game days with in-game spots promoting the contest and the winners. The NFL also will run a holiday shopping guide in USA Today.

HERE & THERE: Two new hires join MLB’s corporate sales and marketing division. Josh Kleinman joins as an account specialist and will specialize in sponsorship activation. Kleinman spent the last four years with the Boston Celtics, not coincidentally the last employer of MLB senior vice president of corporate sales and marketing John Brody. Andrew Schwartz signs on as account coordinator, moving over from MLB’s special events department. … IMG’s Licensing Division has made new hires. Peter Makula joins the New York office, headed by Rick Isaacson, as director of business development. Makula was with Leveraged Marketing Corp. of America for six years, where he worked on various brand licensing programs. Joining IMG’s Paris office is Véronique Pichon, who was named manager of the 2007 Rugby World Cup licensing program. Pichon ran Sony Signatures licensing in Europe for more than 10 years and worked on licensing and merchandising programs for World Cup France ’98.

Stuff Magazine and mlb.com are again staging a technology exposition two days before the All-Star Game, this time in Detroit. The latest in auto digital photography, video and audio video, and gaming will be featured. Sponsors include Chevy, J&R Music World, The Global Gaming League and Tickets.com. … NCAA sponsor The Hartford is looking to expand its “Playbook for Life” financial literacy program for athletes from three college campuses to as many as 15 markets beginning next fall.

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

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