SBJ/20100524/Marketing/Sponsorship

Rose producer counting on this sponsorship to deliver

At their outset, every sponsorship is labeled as “the perfect fit” by those involved, but this is the first time we’re confident that’s true. In what might be the definitive endemic sponsorship, Passion Growers has signed on as the first official rose of the Rose Bowl.

How the 108-year-old bowl game, the nation’s oldest, was without an official rose is a question that Premier Partnerships, Los Angeles, first pondered 2 1/2 years ago. After meeting with flower retailers like FTD, Teleflora and 1-800-Flowers, Premier COO Jeff Marks determined that the deal to be had was with a rose producer.

The Rose Bowl’s four-year deal creates an
official rose.

Passion Growers sells more then 200 million roses a year through retailers like ProFlowers and large supermarket chains, including H-E-B, Wegmans and Ralph’s, which has a large Southern California presence, including 50 stores within 13 miles of the Rose Bowl’s Pasadena home.

Passion Growers has signed four-year deals with both the Rose Bowl Operating Committee, which runs the venue, and the Tournament of Roses, which runs the game itself. Total commitment is a little over a million dollars for the combined deals — pretty fair green for the flower category. Passion Growers gets “official flower,” “official rose” and “official rose grower” designations and accompanying exclusivity.

Passion Growers cultivates and sells more than 150 varieties of roses and hopes to add an exclusive Rose Bowl rose, or line of roses. The Colombian company, with U.S. headquarters in Miami, also will use Rose Bowl logos to sell licensed products, including floral arrangements, wreaths and vases.

Other marketing assets included are hospitality, permanent and temporary signage at the Rose Bowl, video vignettes, the installation of a Passion Growers Landmark “destination” on the stadium’s concourse level (with a retail kiosk attached), and other rights to UCLA games at the venue, along with the Rose Bowl’s AmericaFest Fourth of July celebration.

Passion Growers’ first sports play is part of a larger initiative to establish a brand presence in what has been an unbranded category, absent any differentiation other than price, or the name of the delivery service.

“It’s all about building trust in our brand,” said Passion Growers founder and President Jaime Peisach. “That’s why we are associating ourselves with an American icon like the Rose Bowl. Of course, we’re a perfect match, but other brands we admire, like Boar’s Head, do a great job of getting the word out that they are the name that means quality in a category where there’s no ownership. When people think ketchup, they think Heinz. When you think roses, we want you to think Passion roses. If this deal helps us get there, we’re heading in the right direction.”

Premier Partnerships has been selling sponsorships for the Rose Bowl since 2003. “Certainly, we share a passion for roses like no one else,” noted Rose Bowl Operating Co. general manager Darryl Dunn. “So if we aren’t a great marketing platform for them …”

Then maybe the Rose Bowl should change its name.

REUNION: Ever since George Pyne (now president at IMG) and Brett Yormark (president of Nets Sports & Entertainment and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment) left their former jobs as lead marketers at NASCAR, we’ve expected those two to work together again. That’s happening now, as the otherwise unlikely pair of IMG and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment has quietly won an agency shootout to sell naming rights for Rutgers University’s football stadium.

The 16-year-old, on-campus facility in Piscataway, N.J., recently underwent a $100 million renovation. Yormark/Brooklyn has already worked with the state during the Nets’ tenure in what is now the Izod Center, and we’re told he got the nod for having superior knowledge within the Jersey environs, while IMG got points for scale and sales ability.

Rutgers’ football program has been growing in stature. If a possible move by Rutgers to the Big Ten Conference happens, the value of naming rights at its football stadium should grow exponentially.

The university is also in the early stages of planning a renovation for its 31-year-old athletic center, and we’re wondering if a naming-rights deal for the football stadium might be expanded to include that project. Agencies competing to sell the stadium entitlement included Rule 1.02 Marketing, Van Wagner Sports and Premier Partnerships.

NBA ROSTER EXPANSION: Continuing an initiative to expand retail distribution, the NBA has added some Best Buy and 7-Eleven stores to the list of retailers selling NBA-licensed products — at least for the playoffs.

In Los Angeles, around 350 7-Eleven convenience stores are carrying an array of novelty items, including Lakers gloves, car flags, lanyards and foam fingers. Additionally, select Best Buy stores in Boston, Los Angeles and Cleveland are selling Skullcandy headphones, Duck House freezer mugs, and backpacks and sling bags from Concept One. Other products include licensed laptop bags, mouse pads, pencils and air fresheners. Champs Sports opened NBA boutiques earlier this year and the store count on those is now up to 88.

COMINGS & GOINGS:Bob O’Keefe, former NFL senior director of customer marketing, has left the league after a dozen years to join Jacksonville-based TeamFanShop. O’Keefe will be based in the New York City area as vice president of business development for the e-commerce provider, which operates its own impressive Footballfanatics.com site for licensed sports products. It also operates e-commerce for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, colleges including Ohio State, Alabama and Florida, and the U.S. Olympic Committee. O’Keefe said he hopes to expand his new employer’s NFL and other league businesses, and add a catalog business, something he was a big part of at the NFL. … Robert Brodersen joins VFLicensed Sports Group as vice president and general manager for baseball. Brodersen will be responsible for Major League Baseball on-field uniform programs under the Majestic Athletic brand, and other licensed MLB apparel. Brodersen spent more than 20 years at Champs Sports, most recently as vice president of marketing.

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

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