SBJ/September 26 - October 2, 2005/Marketingsponsorship

With Nissan in rearview mirror, AVP looks for a title sponsor

Nissan is leaving the Association of Volleyball Professionals seeking a new title sponsor. The automaker has been title sponsor of the beach circuit for the last three years, a deal that included some of our favorite branded content — Nissan vehicles driving competitors to the court at the beginning of the match.

However, AVP Commissioner Leonard Armato said he would prefer a title sponsor that would leverage the sport off the beach, along the lines of Nextel’s execution of its NASCAR deal.

Given volleyball’s demographics, Armato thinks a tech brand might be a good fit (we surely aren’t the only ones who noticed that the AVP’s yellow-and-black trademark is strikingly similar to the new logo of Sprint, Nextel’s new parent).

Nissan’s three-year run as Association of Volleyball Professionals title sponsor is ending.
We’re told Nissan was paying about $3 million a year for its title sponsorship. Despite flat television ratings, Armato says the AVP’s growth in the last three years in attendance and number of events, and the anticipation of adding more events and getting increased television exposure next season justify a larger asking price of $5 million.

Armato said he is looking for a three- to five-year commitment.

An August SEC filing indicates that the AVP had contracted sponsorship revenue of $12.7 million so far in 2005, as opposed to $9.9 million “recognized’’ sponsorship revenue in 2004. Also on the AVP’s renewal list are the beer and apparel categories, in which Bud Light and Nautica are the incumbents.

SOFT SELL? Despite seeing more television activation than ever from NFL corporate sponsors, one heavyweight partner has been conspicuous in its absence. Since GlaxoSmithKline’s Levitra erectile dysfunction medication became an NFL sponsor in 2003, it has been difficult to watch an NFL game without seeing an ad for Levitra. This year we’ve seen no ads in the early going of the NFL season. Levitra is still activating its NFL team sponsorships, but there are no details about any leaguewide activation.

CLOTHES LINES: The NFL is flexing some marketing muscle behind its licensees’ “NFL For Her” and “No Huddle” apparel lines and is targeting college football audiences in Tampa, Oakland, Kansas City and Pittsburgh.
About 300,000 fliers touting the togs, along with an accompanying sweepstakes that will offer a trip to the Pro Bowl as its top prize, will be distributed by “street teams” at 60 college football games across the country from now through November. The licensed apparel is also being supported with billboards, transit and mall advertising. There is also a print buy in PSP Sports’ Touchdown Illustrated magazine, which reaches about 350 college football venues.
With licensees more openly courting female customers of late, NFL-licensed products for women generated a 300 percent sales increase last year (wholesale). Meanwhile, the “No Huddle” line is an attempt to connect with young male customers by offering more “fashion forward” clothing.
We’re told a relaunch is in the works that will reposition Levitra as more medicinal and less recreational in nature. The pharmaceutical category is heavily regulated and doesn’t do anything quickly, but given the cost of an NFL deal, it will be interesting to see if the relaunch occurs before the end of the season.

“MOBIL” MARKETING: ExxonMobil, which was pricing an NFL league sponsorship awhile back, has instead built a network of club deals this year to support a promotion for its On the Run and Tigermarket convenience stores across the South and Southwest.

NFL team sponsorships with the Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans tie into a promotion that gives consumers a free Bengal Trader coffee the day after the game if the home team wins. If their team loses, the drink is half price.

The promo runs through the end of the year and is supported by radio buys, largely in the pre- and postgame shows of the various clubs.

Stadium events and a premium mug offer in Houston also support the effort.

OMD’s Optimum Sports is ExxonMobil’s sports agency.

HERE & THERE: Looking to add a national footprint to its collection of regional sports and entertainment sponsorships, Fidelity Investments has enlisted Velocity Sports & Entertainment, Norwalk, Conn., for consulting. The Aegis-owned agency will assess Fidelity’s portfolio, which includes deals with the New England Patriots, Chicago Cubs, Sybase Classic PGA Tour event in suburban New Rochelle, N.Y., and the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. Velocity will also make recommendations for possible future sponsorships.

Nelligan Sports Marketing, Little Falls, N.J., has signed a 10-year agreement to represent Princeton University for corporate sponsorship and broadcast sales. It’s the first time Princeton has outsourced those sales and represents the first Ivy League school for Nelligan Sports, which also counts Louisville, Marquette and the Big East Conference among its collegiate clients.

Peter O’ Reilly goes to the NFL as director of marketing, working for Michael Capiraso, the league’s vice president and executive creative director. O’Reilly most recently held a marketing slot for NYC2012. He also worked for NBA Entertainment.

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

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