SBJ/April 4-10, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Team Epic will take Smash Zone on the road for the USTA

Terry Lefton
Team Epic
has won a three-month agency shootout to launch and stage the U.S. Tennis Association’s first tour aimed at increasing youth participation in the sport. The 20-market Smash Zone Tour will generate 45-50 event dates aimed at kids 10 and younger.

The 53-foot trailer, which unfolds to tennis courts downsized for youth play, will begin its tour in late May or early June in Atlanta and is a complement to the association’s ongoing youth participation initiatives, Quick Start and the Smash Zone at the U.S. Open. Since it is targeting a family crowd, the tour will stop at fairs and festivals, along with some retail environments and downtown locations, with some overlap at sites hosting the U.S. Open Series.

Darran Miner, USTA senior director of marketing, said the NGB’s sales staff is in the market with signage-laden sponsorship packages, including a title sponsorship in the mid-six figures. Miner said Team Epic won the assignment based on its engagement and sponsorship integration concepts. Team Epic Principal Mike Reisman said his agency’s experience working on youth brands like Nerf, Slim Jim and Mountain Dew also helped.

CAA Sports is in line to sell naming rights should the San Francisco 49ers get to build their new stadium.
GOLD RUSH:
There’s more than a few hurdles to go, not the least of which is most of its funding and various government approvals, before the San Francisco 49ers can start building a proposed $937 million stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., where the team has had its corporate headquarters for some time. However, multiple sources tell us that CAA Sports has won an agency review to sell naming rights for the NFL team’s proposed new home, if and when the stadium seems a little more, er, concrete.

If this seems somewhat premature, remember that this is the year when we’ve already seen a stadium in Los Angeles without a team, blueprints or government approvals get a naming-rights deal. At least the proposed 49ers venue has an NFL tenant with which to start, and $114 million in funding. Should the venue become a reality, the assignment would make the first bona-fide naming-rights sale for CAA, which earlier sold deals that packaged everything but naming rights with Madison Square Garden for JPMorgan Chase, and for Bank of America with the New York Yankees, a deal that cratered after the economy and the banking industry did the same.

It’s assumed that the naming-rights partner would come from the riches in Silicon Valley, but even those heady dollars won’t bridge the gap between the $114 million in public funds allocated by voters for the new stadium and the $937 million it is projected to cost.

The champion Giants showed surprising sales strength.
UNIFORM GROWTH:
Ever sanguine, MLB licensing chief Howard Smith sees room for growth in licensed product sales, even coming in what he said was MLB’s top year ever. “I haven’t planned a year down yet,” he said. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t anniversary those numbers and even grow some this year,” said Smith, who’s headed MLB’s licensing program since 1998.

Accounting for the continued growth is a headwear business that remains strong, new batting practice jerseys from Majestic, strong video game sales and a 2010 postseason that Smith said is still echoing and was one of the top five ever — which was especially surprising since the World Series champion San Francisco Giants were projected as one of the weaker “if wins” at the start of last year’s postseason. 

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

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