SBJ/20100517/Marketing/Sponsorship

Will move to D.C. increase Donovan McNabb’s sponsor capital?

Along with a return of Donovan McNabb as a top-level NFL quarterback, his handlers are hoping for a corresponding renaissance of the 11-year pro’s reputation as a commercial endorser.

McNabb, traded to the inter-division rival Washington Redskins during the offseason, holds every significant Eagles quarterback record. At the top of his off-field game in 2005, McNabb had the biggest shoe/apparel deals in the league, held the cover athlete position on EA’s “Madden NFL” video game and was in five national TV ads. On the downside, fans recall the Eagles’ 1-4 record with McNabb at the helm in NFC championship games.

So while we’re not sure of how he’ll do on the field, off the field, his revival has already begun. The former Pepsi and Vitaminwater (now owned by Coke) endorser shot an ad in Los Angeles in late April with former New York Giants star and current Fox NFL analyst Michael Strahan for Dr Pepper.

While it remains to be seen whether McNabb or new coach Mike Shanahan is the face of the franchise, the Redskins are starting to talk to their sponsors about packaging McNabb in their local deals and the QB’s advisers are casting about for deals in financial service, quick-service restaurant and technology categories. Existing deals are with Nike, Verizon, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, AirTran Airways, Mounted Memories, Playmaker Mobile and Yardbarker.com.

Donovan McNabb (right) has already shot a Dr Pepper
ad with Michael Strahan.

Elsewhere, McNabb will be the subject of an ESPN “Homecoming” feature, as he returns to his native Chicago for a shoot this week. He’s likely to be doing local broadcast work in D.C., and since D.C. is the center of the American political universe, McNabb is pursuing opportunities there as well, including discussions with the White House regarding involvement in Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move youth initiative. McNabb will serve as ambassador for the Redskins’ local version of the NFL’s Play 60 youth initiative.

“Donovan is just getting started,” said Andrew Stroth, McNabb’s business adviser, “but he wants to win a Super Bowl with the Redskins, partner with corporations committed to serving the community, and work with the Obama administration.”

Just the latter two should be enough to fill up his schedule until training camp.

 SINGLE-ING IN SALES: Any marketer considering a large-scale grassroots marketing program across many sports venues might take a look at the program Kraft has fashioned with Minor League Baseball to leverage its Cheese Singles brand across no fewer than 144 minor league ballparks.

A wrapper redemption program has fans of teams in cities including Albuquerque, N.M.; Jacksonville; Reading, Pa.; and Fort Wayne, Ind., getting two tickets for the price of one on “Kraft Singles Tuesdays,” now in its second season. On its busiest nights last year, single teams were redeeming as many as 100 wrappers, about 10 times what was expected. With a year of awareness of the program, this April saw redemption levels three times that of the 2009 levels. Marketing support includes radio, newspaper and search ads.

More than 20 retailers have tied in, and 30 of the 144 teams get additional sponsorship support from Kraft, meaning it can tie in Tuesday night activities, including one in which kids get to run out a single on the field, after which they high five with the team mascot.

Kraft Singles has a hit on its hands with
its Minor League Baseball ticket offer.

As for incremental sales of what is perhaps the ultimate parity product in a mature category? Sales during the summer of 2009 increased a robust 10 percent. Clayton Wai-Poi, senior brand manager for Kraft Singles, notes the launch of a new ad campaign and other marketing programs makes a one-to-one sales lift attribution difficult. However, “it’s a relatively simple program, but one that has the geographic reach we wanted, and makes ultimate sense, since it ties in the value and uniquely American association baseball has with the brand.”

Jeannie Goldstein’s Chicago Sports & Entertainment Partners conceived, negotiated and is helping to activate the MiLB sponsorship for Kraft.

 SKIN GAME: Derek Jeter is the perennial winner of every MLB most marketable athlete list, but St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, whose stats in his 10 years in the bigs merit comparison to MLB’s holy trinity of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams, has a relatively empty portfolio. Since he’s a free agent after the current season, Pujols will likely find himself eclipsing Alex Rodriguez as the game’s most-remunerated player. Maybe his off-field activities will pick up as well. Last week, Pujols shot an ad at his suburban St. Louis home for Unilever’s Dove For Men+ skin care line.

The brand’s other sports efforts centered around the most recent Super Bowl, including a TV spot in the game, and an Internet video ad with Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees showering without a shirt.

Pujols is repped by the Beverly Hill Sports Council, and his other national endorsements include endemic marketers Nike and Rawlings.

 TOWELING OFF: The NHL has joined its league brethren in adopting an official towel as part of the celebration immediately after a team wins a league championship. So, along with the standard caps and T-shirts, this year’s on-ice celebration of the Stanley Cup victory will include an official Stanley Cup champions locker room towel from McArthur Towel & Sports.

As was the case with the other championship towels, the product will also be featured in an ad just after the game ends featuring championship product that will be immediately available on NHL.com and later in other retailers. The towel carries a suggested retail price of $19.99.

The addition of the NHL means McArthur is supplying championship towels to all four major leagues, remarkable for a product that didn’t exist before the 2009 NFL playoffs.

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

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