SBJ/December 12 - 18, 2005/SBJ In Depth

2005’s Triple Plays Of Sponsorship

Three too big to ignore

Sprint’s five-year, $600 million NFL wireless telecom sponsorship: As is usually the case, the NFL sets the U.S. standard in the heavy-money categories. This is an intriguing amalgam of sponsorship and content rights. How long will it be until a wireless or broadband carrier outbids a traditional TV network for what we used to call “broadcast rights?”

FIFA’s Sepp Blatter (left) and Coke’s Neville
Isdell celebrate a $500 million relationship.

Coke extends its FIFA sponsorship through 2022: This is the kind of long-term pre-emptive strike we’ve grown more accustomed to happening in broadcast deals and keeps “The Real Thing” the exclusive non-alcoholic beverage for FIFA. The deal is worth around $500 million, including grassroots and dedicated promos for the men’s and women’s World Cup.

MLB hitches a ride with Chevy: Some estimates put this three-year deal as high as $50 million, including media. Whatever the price, the sponsorship was MLB’s biggest ever, reuniting marketing partners divorced since 1996. Equally impressive: The Chevy deal was completed with the steroids hearings raging and after GM’s biggest quarterly loss in 13 years. A nifty Hispanic marketing platform rounded out the program nicely.

Three deals that were out of the box

No accident: After years of avoiding NASCAR, lest it be associated with a car wreck, Allstate jumped in with league, team and track deals and NASCAR-themed TV ads. Arch-rival State Farm countered with a media-based assault on the sport. Expect more competitors to follow them into the sport.

PGA Tour gets spirited away: OK, golf and vodka aren’t exactly a stretch, but this is the first time the PGA has allowed direct association of its marks with a spirits brand (Ketel One). We’re wondering which big sports property will be next; most already allow liquor-branded taverns in their venues.

Making up — Cover Girl/Baltimore Orioles: Procter & Gamble’s cosmetic giant supports the team with a makeover tent on site and five in-park giveaways, including 10,000 packages of Cover Girl Outlast lip gloss in an Orioles-branded box, to female ticket holders 13 and older.

Three intriguing team sponsorships

Everybody into the pool: In Arizona, summer is almost intolerable without a pool, so pool maintenance is on a par with car maintenance. Playing off that connection and the fact that the team had just remodeled its own pool, the Arizona Diamondbacks crafted a two-year, mid-six-figures per annum sponsorship with Leslie’s Pool Supplies that included naming the stadium’s pool as “Leslie’s Pool Zone.” Also included were TV and radio inventory, rotational and scoreboard signage, and a retail promo in which wristbands with Luis Gonzalez’s name and number were sold at Leslie’s locations, with proceeds benefiting Diamondbacks charities. “Gonzo” was also used in Leslie’s TV and radio ads.

Staples figured the best way to introduce
itself to Chicago was to align with the Bears.

Bear-ly marketing: Entering the Chicago market, Staples depended on the local affinity for the Bears to boost its growing presence. The seven-figure deal had a remarkable amount of promotional activity attached: naming rights to the Bears’ training camp, including exclusive sponsorship of the mezzanine level of the stadium and the Bears Ring of Honor, a sweeps with Bears defensive end Alex Brown as its spokesman, a seat upgrade program at all home games, and a radio promotion in which the Bears equipment manager offers tips on how to “shape up” your business. The 20th anniversary of the Bears’ 1985 Super Bowl team also was integrated into Staples’ efforts.

Bleeding for the team: The American Red Cross/Blood Donor Division used a sponsorship with the Philadelphia Phillies to generate donations in August — normally its slowest month. Radio inventory issuing ads with a voice-over from shortstop Jimmy Rollins drove consumers to Citizens Bank Park. With the incentive of a Bobby Abreu figurine, around 870 showed; 595 were viable donors. Smaller programs were engineered at Fenway Park in Boston for a 9/11 blood drive, and in Baltimore through the Orioles’ flagship station.

Three deals to watch for in 2006

The Adi-azation of Reebok: The Adidas acquisition of Reebok means that the NFL, NBA and NHL licenses now under control are all on the table — they don’t transfer automatically. Will Adidas’ stripes replace Reebok’s vector on NFL and NHL uniforms, or will we see multiple branding or even new brands?

One lingering question for 2006 is
whether Motorola will extend its NFL partnership.

MLB’s wireless act: The diminution of MLB rights in the wireless arena by MLBAM’s competitive offerings have made baseball the only big sports property without a high-octane wireless deal. How long can this continue?

NFL’s Net profit: Since this will end up as an intriguing hybrid, the NFL’s Internet rights package might be considered a content deal as well as a sponsorship package. This is another area in which the NFL will establish an industry benchmark. We’re also thinking that 2006 will be the year Motorola makes the decision to continue renting some of the most expensive real estate in sports — the NFL’s sidelines. Motorola’s NFL headset deal expires after next season

Compiled by Terry Lefton

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