SBJ/Jan. 10-16, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

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  • Network to offer discounts to endurance athletes

    The Active Network will debut a new online service Tuesday that is modeled after Groupon.com, offering deal-of-the-day discounts on race registration and retail products for endurance athletes.
    The service, called “Schwaggle” (swag plus haggle), will launch in the San Francisco Bay Area for a three-month test period before being extended to the Active Network’s 6 million worldwide members.
    “When we read that [Groupon] is the fastest-growing online company, we said to ourselves, ‘We already have a lot of those attributes,’” said Brian Enge, vice president of strategic projects with the Active Network. “But we know our customer a lot better, so instead of sending them offers on bikini waxes and tanning salons, we can send them deals on products they want.”
    According to a source close to the Active Network, Schwaggle represents a six-figure investment that will include the addition of 15-20 personnel.
    The Active Network provides online registration services to nearly 75,000 running, cycling and team sports events worldwide. Each event pays a small percentage per registrant to the network, which attracts 8 million unique visitors each month on its website.
    Initially, Schwaggle will offer three deals each week. The debut deal is 50 percent off the $52 entry fee for San Francisco’s 12K Bay to Breakers race on May 15. The deal will be sent out via e-mail and will appear on the network’s Facebook page, and is open to the first 100 registrants. The first week also includes 50 percent off a PacWest Athletics training camp and a Fuel Belt Helium H2O hydration system.
    The Schwaggle business model is a revenue-sharing agreement between the manufacturers and the Active Network. There is no up-front fee for the manufacturers — both parties split the profit, minus the cost of production.
    “We see Schwaggle as an opportunity to reach the athletic-minded consumer on a much broader level in an engaging way,” said Angela Fang, general manager of the Bay to Breakers.

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  • Delta Air Lines signs multiyear deal with Lakers

    LakersDelta Air Lines will be seen on Staples Center signs next season.
    Noah Graham

    Delta Air Lines has signed a multiyear deal to become an official sponsor and exclusive airline partner of the Los Angeles Lakers, in a deal that Delta made at least in part to showcase its high-end services to the Lakers’ glamorous high-end ticket holders at Staples Center.
    “From our perspective, when you think about Los Angeles it is one of the world’s largest travel markets,” said Tim Mapes, Delta senior vice president of marketing. “It makes total sense that the world’s largest airline would be associated with what is arguably one of the world’s greatest sports brands.”
    Delta will receive center-court rotational sign space, rotating sign space between the second and third level of suites, branding on the center-hung video board and rotating scrolling message space on the LED boards, as well as other in-arena branding opportunities. The deal is between the team and Delta, not Staples Center owner AEG, Mapes said. He declined to discuss the financial details of the deal.
    Delta will replace Virgin America, the Lakers’ current airline sponsor, next season.
    “The deal is across all platforms and very customer-centric,” said Tim Harris, senior vice president of business operations for the Lakers.
    Delta has sponsorship deals with the New York Yankees, the New York Mets and the New York Knicks, as well as Madison Square Garden.
    “We wanted to make sure that we got New York, with the Yanks, the Mets and MSG, before we grew to another market,” Mapes said. “The link between our presence in Los Angeles and New York is not coincidental.”
    Delta will promote its business elite service between New York and Los Angeles, as well as Delta Private Jets, Mapes said.
    Delta has a contract with the NBA and its teams for charter jets to games, and its partnership with the NBA is a big reason that Delta signed a multiyear deal with the team, even with a potential NBA lockout looming. The NBA collective-bargaining agreement expires on June 30.
    “We are familiar with a possibility of a disruption to the season,” Mapes said. “But what is key to this is the NBA and the Lakers are customers of ours. … There is obviously volatility in the airline industry and there is obviously volatility in the sports business, but they are our customers and we want to be in a position to earn their trust.”

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  • Starwood Hotels checking in with IndyCar

    The IndyCar Series is close to finalizing a multiyear agreement with Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide that will give the sanctioning body its first official hotel partner.
    The deal, which sources valued between $400,000 and $600,000 annually, makes Starwood the official hotel and resort of IndyCar and could be announced as early as this week. The series will host a State of IndyCar address featuring CEO Randy Bernard at a Westin Hotel in Indianapolis, and a Westin executive is expected to speak at the event.
    Westin, Sheraton and St. Regis are among Starwood’s hotel brands.
    Starwood hotels will become the preferred hotels for IndyCar Series staff. The series will make preferred hotel rates available to its 20 teams during the 2011 season.
    Sources familiar with Starwood’s plans said the hotel will incorporate the IndyCar Series into its Starwood Preferred Guests reward system. The hotel and resort chain allows frequent guests to accumulate points and redeem them for Starwood Preferred Guests Moments that can include everything from backstage passes to a Tom Jones concert to a golf clinic with PGA Tour player Rich Beem to a private dinner with celebrity chef Mario Batali. Starwood is expected to develop similar “moments” around IndyCar by offering preferred customers the chance to redeem points for Indianapolis 500 tickets, hospitality and even driver meet-and-greets.
    Starwood also is expected to activate the sponsorship online and promote it at its hotel properties, sources said.
    “They’re all about unique experiences for key consumers, and that program’s been well-received,” said Ed Kiernan, GMR Marketing senior vice president, sports, who has worked with Starwood in the past. “Open-wheel racing matches their other sports and entertainment platforms and is a natural for them.”
    IndyCar is Starwood’s only motorsports sponsorship. Its other sports deals include the New York Mets, New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, PGA Tour, the NCAA basketball tournament and several universities.
    Starwood is the 14th sponsor IndyCar has added in the last 12 months. It recently signed agreements with AirMed, an air ambulance provider, and Cenveo, a print service provider. Those deals are expected to be announced this week.
    IndyCar’s total sales revenue for the 2011 season is 30 percent above its 2010 total.

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  • 'Most interesting man' keeps drinkers thirsty for Dos Equis

    When you’re “The most interesting man in the world,” guys want to stop and chat. Men and boys stop actor Jonathan Goldsmith every day, all aspiring to be the ultimate “man’s man,” which he has been ably portraying in Dos Equis beer ads since 2007.

    Goldsmith, a 72-year-old actor with hundreds of TV credits, including more than a dozen appearances on “Dallas” and on action/adventure series like “Adam-12,” “The Rockford Files,” and “Charlie’s Angels,” calls his recent success with Dos Equis a blessing to which he is still growing accustomed. Accordingly, he happily obliges requests for autographs and pictures, which have become a daily routine.

    There are still times when the power of the ad campaign from EuroRSCG is demonstrated in a novel way. Like the aging gentleman at Dan Tana’s restaurant in Hollywood, who gently pulled Goldsmith aside to say thanks. “Because of you, I got this,” the man said, gesturing toward a female companion nearly 40 years younger. Or the cane-wielding octogenarian who upon recognizing Goldsmith on a Manhattan bus, tapped him on both shoulders as if to knight him, adding, “When I come back, I want it to be as you.”

    Dos equis ad
    Actor Jonathan Goldsmith says the ads have brought him unexpected popularity.
    If you’ve watched any sports on TV, then you have seen the campaign, which marketing types are calling “iconic” after just three years. Since the campaign launched, Dos Equis sales have become just as interesting as the character — they are up double digits every year of the campaign. The brand, imported by Heineken USA, has never sold more domestically. Beer Marketer’s Insights figures, which combine amber and lager, show Dos Equis growing in the U.S. from 655,000 barrels when the campaign began in 2007 to around a million barrels last year, enough to make it the No. 5 import beer brand in the U.S. Even that much growth gave Dos Equis just 0.5 percent of the U.S. beer market, which has been shrinking for the past two years.

    A measure of any successful marketing campaign is when it becomes a part of pop culture. Now there are almost as many ersatz “interesting man” ads on the Web as there are genuine ones. For the record, “His personality is so magnetic, he is unable to carry credit cards” and “He is the only man to ever ace a Rorschach test” are bona fide; “Fish try to catch him” and “He defeated the previous Iditarod champion with a sled pulled by a single Chihuahua,” are not.

    The character succeeds because he is every man’s fantasy. The guy is James Bond with a PhD; a suave, debonair, mysterious, cosmopolitan gentleman; well-versed and always well dressed. And as Goldsmith reminds us, “He also gets all the great-looking chicks.”

    The advertising grew out of research that showed imported beer drinkers were tired of beer advertising cliches. “They were looking for something different,” said Dos Equis brand manager Ryan Thompson. “They wanted to be seen as interesting and as leading interesting lives, so that’s what we gave them.”

    Goldsmith, who was born in the Bronx, almost missed out on what has become the role of his lifetime. After several auditions, the casting director wanted to go with someone younger. Barbara Goldsmith, then his agent and now his wife, successfully convinced the director that “the most interesting man” had to be someone with a wealth of experience. Accordingly, Dos Equis may be the only beer ads that don’t depict the 21- to 34-year-old target consumer. Dos Equis ads are also among the few in which the spokesman admits to using competing products. Every ad ends “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis. …. Stay thirsty, my friends.”

    Explained Dos Equis’ Thompson: “The character isn’t a mirror of the consumer, but someone they can look up to — a guy with a life well lived.”

    Another round of “most interesting” ads was shot in late December and should air in March. Even as the campaign and the brand reach new heights, Goldsmith is looking in new directions. Reed Bergman’s Playbook Inc., until now a sports marketing shop, has branched out into entrainment by taking on Goldsmith. Last month in New York City, Goldsmith schmoozed media and Madison Avenue types, including some from Fox Sports, NBC Sports and Marquis Jet, seeking new avenues for the actor, not the spokes-character. Dos Equis owns the character and the trademark, but Goldsmith’s face is now renowned and carries with it desirable connotations of luxury and taste. Seeking new opportunities means walking a tightrope, but both marketer and actor say they are respecting that line.

    “Clearly, the character of ‘most interesting man’ belongs to Dos Equis and there is no way we would impinge upon that, but there are extensions to his legacy as Jon Goldsmith the actor, both with mainstream media and corporate America we are exploring,” Bergman said. “He is the modern-day Ricardo Montalban.”

    Goldsmith says he has already turned down many offers, including those from competing beverage brands or requests to play a similar character in films or movies. “I respect what Dos Equis has done for me and I don’t want to diminish the character or become a sight gag either, so we’re very selective,” he said, during an interview at a midtown Manhattan hotel. At the same time, he’d prefer to leave behind an acting legacy beyond just the “most interesting man.”

    “The window is open,” he said, “but it is not going to stay open for me as long as it will for a 30-year-old.”

    Of course, that 30-year-old couldn’t possibly be as interesting.
    Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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