SBJ/April 14 - 20, 2008/This Weeks News

Dunkin’ picks FSG to manage sports portfolio

Sports advertising and sponsorship will
be a big part of Dunkin’ Donuts’
campaign to become a national brand.

Dunkin’ Donuts has selected Fenway Sports Group as its sports marketing agency of record, furthering the company’s push to become a fully national brand.

The long-term deal calls for FSG to manage the chain’s existing sports portfolio as well as develop new programs and aid in local execution of national sports marketing efforts. Canton, Mass.-based Dunkin’ Donuts, long associated with the Boston Red Sox, a sister operation of FSG under the New England Sports Ventures umbrella, has sharply increased its marketing activity of late within sports, aligning with six Philadelphia-area Division I-A schools, the NHRA and Yahoo! Sports, among others.

“It’s no secret that Dunkin’ Donuts is on a fairly aggressive expansion, particularly with regards to getting into some key areas of the western United States,” said Mark Lev, FSG executive vice president. “So sports will definitely be a big part of that effort as they develop more of a national platform.”

Hill Holliday worked with
Dunkin’ on ads featuring
Red Sox pitcher
Jonathan Papelbon.

Going into this year, FSG executives had sought to do less sponsorship sales and representational work and increase the firm’s involvement in larger ventures with some type of ownership stake, such as its 50 percent interest in Roush Fenway Racing, last fall’s purchase of a minor league baseball team in Salem, Va., and its deal to stage an AVP tournament each year in Massachusetts.

That dynamic will continue, but beneath those more highly publicized efforts, FSG continues to grow quietly a third business line of corporate consulting and event management run by Lev that will oversee the Dunkin’ Donuts work. FSG works with a handful of other companies in this capacity, including Marriott, EMC and Labatt’s parent company, InBev.

FSG through the deal will join Dunkin’ Donuts’ existing team of outside agencies, including ad firm Hill Holliday, which recently developed a string of ads in New England featuring Red Sox pitcher Jonathan Papelbon for the brand’s “Red Sox Win, You Win” campaign.

Dunkin’ Donuts did not conduct a formal agency review before putting FSG on retainer, instead relying on the geographic proximity between the two operations and existing ties between Tom Manchester, Dunkin’ Donuts director of sports marketing, and Lev from his days at ANC Sports before joining FSG.

FSG will not formally represent Dunkin’ Donuts during periodic renewals of the chain’s sponsorship of the Red Sox, Manchester said. That recusal, however, may be a distinction with little difference as many FSG senior executives also have responsibilities with the Red Sox.

“That’s really not a big deal to us,” Manchester said. “When it comes time to do a Red Sox renewal, I’ll just pick up the phone myself and work that out. That is about aligning with top talent, and these are guys who really understand the power of branding. We’re not the biggest brand in our category and we’re going to have to outthink our competition because we won’t be able to outspend them.”

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