SBJ/Nov. 1, 2010/Marketing/Sponsorship

NFL pumping out revenue-enhancing innovations for teams

There is a lot of contingency planning going on at the NFL in case a work stoppage occurs next season.

Neil Glat, senior vice president for corporate development at the league, said NFL clubs have been sharing best practices in key areas, like maintaining relationships with ticket holders and sponsors, and he noted that while sharing these best practices, the key to teams’ learning to date has been their transparency.

Beneath the surface, the league also has been working with clubs to help maximize revenue, as what was a team-services unit has morphed into club-business development. Out of that group has come innovations like better packaging of tickets with concessions and merchandise, or the rebranding of seating areas that were once afterthoughts, like the Gridiron, Texas-labeled areas at Reliant Stadium.

Another intriguing area is an innovation group, in cooperation with other league and club officials, developing new retail concepts like the pop-up store for licensed products for women at this year’s NFL Kickoff in New Orleans and the location-based mobile-technology venture FanVision (formerly known as Kangaroo TV) that’s owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross. The group is also working on a Wi-Fi solution that could be rolled out across NFL venues along with various other projects, some of which will require outside investment.

“We will look to attract equity investors and possibly do some spin-offs,” Glat said. “That premium on innovation is a directive that comes from the top here.”


Subway and marathoner-in-training Jared
are taking the lead in using the ING NYC
Marathon as a national platform.

MARATHON SUBWAY RIDE: With this year’s ING New York City Marathon now just days away, sponsors are starting to support their investment, none more broadly than Subway, the official training partner of the race. Since Jared Fogle, lead spokesman for the brand, is running in Sunday’s marathon, Subway is leveraging what has been largely a regional event with national TV buys on major sports media platforms, such as the NFL and MLB postseason, along with a radio campaign and Fogle point-of-sales advertising in all 23,000 of its U.S. stores.

“They are really looking at us from a national perspective,” said Ann Wells Crandall, senior vice president of business development and marketing for New York Road Runners, which stages the event.

While all the support isn’t in the market yet, there have been suggestions from more than one marketer that Subway is out-marketing ING, which has title-sponsored the NYC race since 2003. So far, that seems like a valid point from this perch.

Other noteworthy activation around this year’s race sees Dunkin’ Donuts, the marathon’s official coffee sponsor, supplying java to the 45,000 runners at the start of the race. DD also is distributing 10,000 branded beanies at their stores along the marathon route and an additional 15,000 to runners, but sadly, it is not reprising its dedicated marathon donut from last year.

New auto sponsor Nissan is touting its Leaf electric car with a showcase effort dubbed the Breathe Easy Tour across New York City’s five boroughs during which it will hand out marathon goodies. Asics has its usual collection of NYC Marathon apparel along with presence through bus wraps and a subway station takeover at New York’s Union Square stop.

Subway and Coors Light are combining to push the use of their products for Marathon Sunday tailgates at home, on the course, or at bars and restaurants. And in one of the largest uses of fruit we know of in a sports marketing effort, the New York Apple Association, a consortium of the 674 commercial apple growers in New York state, has a relatively large media buy to go with the 45,000 apples it supplies to the race annually.


Mike Luscher’s Point 3 brand is looking
to score with the serious hoops crowd.

FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BASKETBALL: There are licensed NBA and college basketball togs, basketball-specific apparel from Nike and most of the rest of the big footwear brands, and hoopswear from apparel-only brands like Russell Athletic and Champion. Now, some five years after basketball junkie brand And 1 was sold to American Sporting Goods, a number of basketball-specific brands are trying to elbow their way under the hoop — that is, onto the landscape of sports specialty retailers, a space largely dominated by Nike and Under Armour.

Mike Luscher, a former MLB and NFL marketer, is trying his hand at apparel with Point 3, an Atlanta-based apparel brand hanging its sneaks on the made-for-and-by-basketball-junkies positioning. It’s online imminently, and Walter’s in Atlanta has agreed to carry the entire line while Luscher dribbles across America seeking distribution in sports specialty retail for his startup.

“[Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association] tells us there are 32 million basketball players in America, and there are established specialty brands in baseball, running and soccer, so there’s definitely market capacity,” Luscher said. “The market has been focused on ankles-down [footwear]. We’re focusing on innovating from the ankles up, where there hasn’t been enough innovation.”

Meanwhile, Collective Licensing International, a company whose associated brands include Airwalk, Saucony, Keds and Sperry Top-Sider, is re-launching the 21-year-old Above The Rim brand it purchased from Reebok in January with some $65 signature shoes from Minnesota Timberwolves guard/forward Martell Webster.

On the apparel side, ATR is promising lightweight tops and shorts at $25 to $40.

“Without a doubt, it’s a competitive market, driven by two or three brands,” said Eric Dreyer, vice president of brand management. “But because it’s a youth-driven market, there’s always a demand for something new and different, so we’ll try to crack that code.”

ATR is currently without firm distribution plans but is aiming its spring launch at mall-based retailers.

If neither of those brands bounce your ball, you could look at footwear and apparel from another brand aiming at the hard-core baller: Ball’N, which is promising a new lightweight line of apparel and footwear for spring delivery. Of course, And 1 still contends that it is “All Things Ball,” but we note the parent also owns the Ryka and Avia footwear brands.

Terry Lefton can be reached at

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