SBJ/20090629/This Week's News

Sobieski vodka expands MSG deal to Knicks games

The New York Knicks are the latest NBA team to land a spirits brand advertising deal as Sobieski vodka expands its sponsorship deal with Madison Square Garden Sports.

Imported by Palm Beach, Fla.-based Imperial Brands company, Sobieski is a Polish-made vodka that not only will have courtside signs in Madison Square Garden during Knicks games, it will open a bar in the Garden’s concourse as part of a deal that was initially signed with MSG Sports in 2007.

The company already had dasherboard signage with its deal with the NHL’s Rangers and now will expand its presence in the Garden with the Knicks after the NBA earlier this year eased its ban on courtside signs for spirits brands.

The new deal with the Knicks nearly doubles the value of the company’s sponsorship agreement with Madison Square Garden Sports from a mid-six-figure deal to a seven-figure agreement.

“This is a very fertile category,” said Greg Elliott, senior vice president of marketing partnerships for MSG Sports. “There are also digital assets and hospitality included, as well as branded space in the building.”

Sobieski uses the “Truth In Vodka” tag line in its marketing and will open its “Truth Bar” in the Garden later this summer.

But the deal does not have full category exclusivity and the Knicks expect to sign other spirits marketing deals. So far, Sobieski’s deal with the Knicks is the only NBA deal for the brand.

“The deal gives [Sobieski] ownership for the line-of-sight for the vodka category within the lower bowl,” Elliott said. “We are also focusing on other brands and there are discussions. We will have a few more before the start of the season.”

The Knicks deal with Sobieski follows the Miami Heat deal with Bacardi as teams look to sign hard-liquor courtside deals.

Like all spirits brand deals in the NBA, the Sobieski deal with the Knicks must include social-awareness messaging.

“The social responsibility is per the league’s guidelines,” Elliott said. “It is brand and logo centric.”

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