SBJ/April 11-17, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

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  • Ford gets on track with Brian Deegan

    Ford Motor Co. has signed Metal Mulisha founder Brian Deegan to a personal service agreement, furthering the automaker’s push to tap popular action sports figures to market its products.

    Terms of the multiyear deal weren’t available, but blue-chip companies typically pay athletes of Deegan’s stature in the low six figures annually.

    Ford wants to use the action sports figure to reach young consumers.
    “Ford is going through a transformation, and part of that transformation relies on our ability to connect with the next generation, millennials,” said Jamie Allison, Ford’s director of motorsports in North America. “We love the connection [Deegan] has built through the motorcycle jump shows and the Metal Mulisha. That’s another form of outreach to that consumer base.”

    “This solidifies Brian in the automobile world, not just the action sports world,” said Bob Walker, Deegan’s agent and the president of Connexions Sports and Entertainment. “NASCAR is the next step, and we’re in the works on it.”

    The deal doesn’t include any licensing rights for Metal Mulisha, a motocross lifestyle and apparel brand. As part of the deal, Deegan will drive a Ford in the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series and in Rally X at the X Games.

    Allison said Ford doesn’t plan to use Deegan in traditional advertising. Instead, it will rely on his ability to promote his relationship with Ford across Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets. Deegan has more than 11,000 followers on Twitter.

    Ford’s agency, Team Detroit, recently shot a digital advertisement with Deegan that is expected to be released online this spring.

    “We’re trying to reach a generation and we need to speak their language,” Allison said. “This is going to be done genuinely and done using the language his fans are used to him talking.”

    Deegan is trying to follow his former freestyle motocross foe Travis Pastrana to NASCAR. He remains in discussions with several teams, and Walker expects him to sign with a team later this year.

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  • Final Four scores big with sponsor activation

    Turner Sports and CBS executives breathed a sigh of relief to see the TV ratings up for the NCAA tournament in the new broadcast format, but the event also saw greater activation on site in Houston from the NCAA’s corporate champions and partners, as well as a handful of new names.

    Unilever’s Dove for Men, McDonald’s, Turner-owned Cartoon Network, Buick, Pepto-Bismol, Upper Deck and the College Board were among the new sponsors in the NCAA’s fan-fest area called Bracket Town, held in the George R. Brown Convention Center. Infiniti, another new partner, activated at Reliant Stadium as the presenting sponsor of the “Tip-Off Tailgate.”

    In just the second year of the reformatted Bracket Town, the NCAA increased its space to 385,000 square feet, up from 250,000 square feet last year in Indianapolis. That space was put to good use with more than 15 companies showing their products and entertaining guests with interactive elements, current and former coaches, former players and, of course, plenty of places to play basketball. There were more than a dozen half courts and 453 basketballs in the convention center.

    IMG College’s events group runs all of the NCAA’s ancillary events, including Bracket Town and the Big Dance concert series, for Turner and CBS.

    Dove for Men, McDonald’s, Cartoon Network, Buick, Pepto-Bismol, Upper Deck and the College Board were among new sponsors in the Bracket Town fan-fest area.
    “Bracket Town was a huge improvement, and we saw the partners and champions respond with activation that was up this year,” said Turner’s Will Funk, senior vice president of NCAA partnerships and branded programming. “We had a lot of new brands that really enhanced the experience for the fans and gave them a chance to interact with their products.”

    This marked the first time that CBS and Turner had worked together on selling the NCAA’s corporate sponsorship program, and one significant difference this year was the nonexclusive auto category. They made sure that the two new auto partners, Infiniti and Buick, didn’t step on each other’s toes by giving them separate spaces in Houston and on the air.

    Infiniti sponsored the pregame show; Buick sponsored the postgame show.

    Infiniti’s branded programming on CBS and online focused on the coaches; Buick’s branded programming focused on the good works of former student athletes.

    Infiniti sponsored the first Tip-Off Tailgate; Buick sponsored the center court and a huge display area inside Bracket Town downtown.

    “Our concern was making sure that they had very different approaches, and that worked out,” Funk said. “Both were able to carve out their own spaces.”

    One of the few partners that didn’t return to Bracket Town was Lowe’s, which presented its Senior Class Award at Reliant Stadium during the teams’ practice day, but didn’t activate in the fan-fest space.

    IMG said it still was tallying attendance numbers for Bracket Town, but expected the total to exceed the 55,000 fans who passed through it last year in Indianapolis.

    Attendance for the Big Dance concerts was up significantly from last year, when 20,000 to 25,000 fans watched each day in Indy. The Coke-sponsored concert, which featured Kings of Leon, drew close to 50,000 spectators to Discovery Green, the park next to the convention center. The Capital One-sponsored concert Sunday with headliner Kenny Chesney drew even more, an estimated 65,000.

    “Sponsor activation was up over last year, and as a result we saw a lot more direct interaction with the fans, including sampling numbers, which were up as well,” said Shea Guinn, an IMG College senior vice president and chief of the events group that runs Bracket Town and the Big Dance.

    McDONALD’S GETS ACTIVE: One of the coups for CBS and Turner was the inclusion of McDonald’s, which has not activated at the Final Four in the past. McDonald’s has enjoyed pass-through promotional rights from corporate champion Coca-Cola for years, but has seldom done anything with them.

    This year, Houston-area McDonald’s locations used in-store promotions to sell tickets to Bracket Town. McDonald’s space inside Bracket Town was an incremental spend and was not part of the pass-through rights the quick-service restaurant has from Coke.

    “McDonald’s came in as part of the Coke family and they really helped drive ticket sales,” Funk said. “We’re looking to do bigger things with McDonald’s next year.”

    Coke also passes rights through to Domino’s as the official pizza of the Final Four. Dennis Maloney, Domino’s vice president of multimedia marketing, said that the company already had a media spend on the NCAA tournament and that the new arrangement through Coke added to Domino’s presence online and on TV.

    NEXT UP: INSURANCE, TECH: Turner and CBS have identified insurance and technology as two categories they’ll be pushing hard between now and the next Final Four in New Orleans. State Farm exited the corporate partner program earlier this year, and The Hartford, which has been the NCAA’s partner since 2004, has retirement planning in the financial category. Auto, home, disability and other forms of insurance are open.

    A leading candidate to be the new tech partner is Hewlett-Packard, which was one of the biggest spenders on March Madness outside of the partners, Funk said. HP advertised heavily on the TV broadcasts and March Madness on Demand, while also presenting March Madness on Demand on the iPhone and iPad applications.

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  • Hospital system signs deal for Mystics' jerseys

    Inova Health System’s jersey deal with the Washington Mystics elevates its cause-related marketing campaigns to a new level by advertising the hospital’s name across the players’ chests.

    The Mystics and their health-care partner jointly announced the partnership last week as part of a change in the team’s colors.
    Greg Bibb, the Mystics’ chief operating officer, would not discuss financial terms other than to say it is the largest sponsorship in team’s 14-year history.

    Washington is the fifth WNBA team to sign a jersey deal. Two years ago, Phoenix and Los Angeles signed deals with LifeLock and Farmers Insurance, respectively; both agreements were reportedly valued at $1 million annually. Others with deals are the New York Liberty (Foxwoods Casino) and Seattle Storm (Bing).

    Inova first became a Mystics partner in May 2010 after signing a deal to become presenting sponsor of the team’s School Day preseason game at Verizon Center and for the club’s 20 summer camps and clinics. Six months later, the Mystics and Inova began talks on a more comprehensive agreement tied to jersey exposure.

    Inova, whose headquarters are in Falls Church, Va., is on a mission to reduce childhood obesity and raise awareness of all chronic diseases affecting women and young children, said Mark Stauder, the hospital’s president and chief operating officer.

    “This is a combined mission to make a difference,” Stauder said.

    The deal adds more educational components to this year’s School Day game May 26 and includes a pregame health seminar for 80 students, tickets for Inova’s use and the right for the hospital to bring four of its partners to set up displays on the arena concourse, Bibb said.
    Thousands of students are expected to attend this year’s game.

    In addition, Inova and the Mystics are co-hosting a regional childhood obesity summit April 29 at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

    This is not Inova’s first sports-related deal. Last fall, the hospital teamed up with former Washington Redskin Darrell Green to promote a program providing health tips for adults ages 50 and older.

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  • Pepsi keeps MLS deal, minus team rights

    Pepsi has renewed its long-standing partnership with Major League Soccer for four years, but the soft drink manufacturer has surrendered exclusive local rights to MLS teams.

    The deal, which was negotiated by Soccer United Marketing and Pepsi, includes a renewal with the U.S. national team. Industry sources peg the value of the league deal in the low eight figures, but say the cumulative earning potential at the team level is greater.

    Pepsi’s league deal dates to 1996.
    Pepsi’s partnership with MLS dates to 1996, the league’s inaugural season.

    According to Jeff Dubiel, Pepsi’s vice president of sports marketing, Pepsi, Aquafina and Gatorade will retain league exclusivity in the soft drink, bottled water and sports drink categories.

    Dubiel said the Pepsi brand will also activate three new soccer campaigns this season: The Pepsi Football Club will promote 11 individual MLS and U.S. national team players in local markets; Pepsi will sponsor the July 14-Aug. 6 World Football Challenge tournament, which includes MLS teams and international clubs; and it will launch a yet-to-be-named grassroots campaign aimed at Hispanic fans. Pepsi is working with Gilt Edge Soccer Marketing on the campaigns.

    “We’d love to have league plus local rights to all of the teams, but I don’t think [losing local rights] will impede us,” Dubiel said. “All other major leagues are operating this way. We expected [MLS] would get there, too.”

    The Pepsi deal comes two weeks after SUM announced its renewal with another founding partner, Anheuser-Busch, and that deal also saw the league withhold local rights after years of granting exclusivity at the team level.

    Kathy Carter, president of SUM, said the retention of local rights brings the Pepsi and Anheuser-Busch deals in line with the league’s other major partnerships, such as those with Allstate, AT&T and Home Depot. Carter said the 2008 deal with Volkswagen marked the league’s first major partnership that left local rights open to teams.

    “It’s an evolution, not a revolution. As the value of the league has increased, our clubs have become more relevant,” Carter said. “They have relationships with local marketers and distributors, and by tying their hands [with exclusive deals] we were not taking advantage of their value.”

    Dubiel said Pepsi is pursuing local marketing rights with the New England Revolution, Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew, Real Salt Lake, D.C. United and Sporting Kansas City teams, which all have stadium deals with the beverage maker. The Portland Timbers recently signed a deal with Coca-Cola, as did the Seattle Sounders, which extended Coke’s stadium deal at Qwest Field. The Philadelphia Union and Colorado Rapids both had existing stadium deals with Coca-Cola, and both clubs are looking to expand the relationship into team deals. The San Jose Earthquakes brought on 7Up/Snapple for a multiyear team partnership in March.

    David Kaval, president of the Earthquakes, said the soft drink deal grants the team a boost in local marketing. “We can piggyback with them at points of sale. [The deal] brings a deeper presence in the community,” Kaval said. “That was always missing. The coordination with [a league deal] was too difficult for local marketing.”

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  • Starwood books league’s hotel category

    Major League Soccer has signed a multiyear partnership with Four Points by Sheraton, the value hotel brand owned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts.

    Terms and value of the partnership were not available. MLS brought on Four Points last year, with a short-term partnership for the 2010 MLS Cup playoffs.

    “We did a test run with them to get to know the property and to see if [Four Points] was interested in a broader deal,” said Kathy Carter, president of Soccer United Marketing. “We thought they had a great point of view on soccer.”

    At the 2010 MLS Cup in Toronto, Four Points received field board branding and a spot in the Soccer Celebration expo. The hotel chain ran a contest that awarded free weekend stays in Canada.

    Brian McGuinness, Starwood’s senior vice president of specialty select brands, said MLS is an ideal partner for the Four Points demographic, which he described as 25 to 40 years old, married, and with a $100,000 household income. He said MLS fans’ willingness to travel to away games was also a selling point.

    “The fans have a lot of passion, and we liked the global nature of soccer,” McGuinness said. “They travel in good numbers.”

    McGuinness said the deal is the first sports sponsorship for the Four Points brand, although Starwood’s other hotels, such as Sheraton, W Hotels and Westin, have experience in sports marketing.

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  • Team Epic adds packaged goods expertise with acquisition of Cincinnati’s Riber

    Aegis Group’s Team Epic sports and entertainment agency group is acquiring Riber Sports Marketing Group, a boutique Cincinnati firm renowned for its work across a variety of Procter & Gamble health and beauty brands.

    Team Epic Principal Mike Reisman said Riber’s expertise in sports marketing consulting, management and sales promotion made it a natural fit. Riber’s packaged goods marketing and in-store marketing are also areas in which Team Epic has been looking to add capabilities.

    “I’ve known the principals at Riber for years, so there’s a huge comfort level,” Reisman said. “We already have a pretty strong [consumer packaged goods] practice with Gillette, ConAgra and Mars, but you can’t have a stronger pedigree in [consumer packaged goods] than P&G.”

    Riber’s Cincinnati office adds to a growing Midwestern presence for Team Epic, which has quietly opened a Chicago office to service clients including ConAgra and Pepsi.

    “Selling a family-owned business is something you only get to do once, but this is with the right people and it’s at the right time,” said Sam Riber, who will remain president of firm, but also becomes a senior vice president within Team Epic. “If you look at our size, especially relative to agencies we compete with, we just felt it was the right time for us to add resources. And we feel like we’re teaming with a group that shares our values and marketing approach.” Riber said that conversations on this deal began 18 months ago but that there had also been discussions about a merger more than two years ago.

    Riber has six full-time employees and revenue of about $1.5 million, while Team Epic had 160 employees and revenue of $31.4 million in 2010. Riber’s P&G brand client duties include activation of Prilosec’s NFL and NASCAR sponsorships, Head & Shoulders’ MLB and NFL ties, Vicks’ NFL and U.S. Olympic Committee deals, and NFL work for Old Spice. Other Riber clients include Stanley Black & Decker’s DeWalt power tool brand and Pfizer.

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  • Could deal as Viagra spokesman have helped Bonds’ image?

    Terry Lefton
    What’s left of Barry Bonds’ reputation has been dragged through a federal courtroom recently with the fervor of a janitor wielding an industrial mop on his floor of the day. It’s a trial in which the outcome will have less to do with the perjury charges at hand and more with determining whether the man who broke baseball’s most cherished records will ever be known as the era’s greatest hitter, or will instead be remembered as the most vilified from a generation of performance-enhancing-drug abusers.

    The die is probably already cast, with Roger Clemens, the era’s pre-eminent pitcher, escaping much of the blame that has transformed Bonds into the poster child of steroid abuse. It didn’t have to be this way, but that’s a matter of choice for players who risked (or risk) using the PEDs that have become Bonds’ crucible.

    Barry Bonds (left) is on trial for perjury, but sponsors rendered their verdict long ago.
    Now no marketer, nor any baseball team, will employ Bonds, even though Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron played well past their prime after establishing the same home-run records. From our vantage point on the porch at the corner of sports and commercial exploitation, the most fascinating thing about Bonds is that four years before steroid-tainted MLB players testified before Congress, Bonds nearly became synonymous with another drug, as the original MLB pitchman for Viagra. Only a Sports Illustrated column excoriating Bonds prevented him from signing a deal with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer that would have paid him between $250,000 and $3 million a year over three years (two sources involved disputed the amount) to acknowledge that he used Viagra, which was an MLB corporate sponsor from 2002 to ’06 and was badly in need of a player to lend additional credibility to the first erectile dysfunction drug. Following the endorsement of Sen. Bob Dole, NASCAR’s Mark Martin was Viagra’s first athlete endorser, but he did not clearly endorse the drug as a user.

    It was the 2001 season, the year Bonds was pursuing and would eventually break the single-season home-run record of 70 set by Mark McGwire three years prior. A month or two into the season, Pfizer sports agency Octagon reached out to Bonds through a variety of sources; Bonds told one of them that he’d already used and enjoyed Viagra. The stigma of admitting use of the drug was not an issue then; ironically, in the perjury trial it is the pro forma issue.

    One source involved in the negotiations recalled that terms with Bonds were agreed upon relatively quickly. Other contract points were negotiated over a three-month period, and “by around midway through the season, we had a deal in place,” with plans for an ad or ads that would have broken during the MLB postseason in October, the source said.

    Bonds’ unusually toxic combination of celebrity and petulance made him a favorite target of Rick Reilly, then a weekly essayist on SI’s final edit page. The Bonds/Viagra endorsement was killed by an Aug. 21, 2001, column in which Reilly noted that “there’s 24 teammates, and there’s Barry Bonds.” Describing Bonds’ demeanor, which might be graciously characterized as surly, Reilly noted that, “Someday, they’ll be able to hold Bonds’ funeral in a fitting room.” Bonds’ most accomplished teammate at the time, reigning NL MVP Jeff Kent, was described by Reilly as someone “who wouldn’t spit on Bonds if Bonds were on fire.”

    Once that column was read by senior executives at Pfizer, it was enough to make the deal go soft. Soon after, Pfizer killed the deal, subsequently mounting a new search that included serious conversations with players Tom Glavine and Matt Williams before settling on Rafael Palmeiro, who signed in the fall and filmed an ad during spring training that debuted during the 2002 season. “My joke was that I did a performance-enhancing drug deal with Palmeiro,” said one marketer involved in the deal. Palmeiro told Congress in 2005 that he’d never taken steroids. He maintained his innocence five months later when MLB suspended him for steroid abuse. Palmeiro, a man with more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs over 20 years in the big leagues, never had another MLB at bat after the 2005 season. Does all that sound distressingly familiar?

    It’s hard to believe anything would have been different if Bonds had been Viagra’s first MLB endorser. Still, anything that humanized Bonds might have helped.

    “I suppose the Viagra deal could have helped his image a little, since it’s admitting a problem,” said political advertising consultant Jimmy Siegel, who was executive creative director at BBDO, New York, when the agency filmed a Bonds spot for Charles Schwab in 2002. “But clearly the steroids thing has junked any chance for him as an endorser.”

    Some four months after establishing an in-house sports and entertainment marketing practice, Horizon Media is giving that unit more legs, with a separate identity.

    Scout Sports and Entertainment has about 16 employees, and Michael Neuman, who founded the practice late last year as managing partner of sports, entertainment and events, said the employee count will increase to 25 by the end of 2011. The group buys more than $300 million in sports assets: media, sponsorships and integrated broadcast messaging. With some exceptions, like insurance and other categories where Horizon has large entrenched clients, Scout will able to solicit business from outside the agency, Neuman said. “That was a big impetus for creating a separate brand name,” he said.

    Agency clients being serviced by Scout under Neuman and managing directors Joy Seijas and Colleen Fitzgerald include Geico, Horizon’s largest client, which has a multitude of sports sponsorships, including its deals with the NHL and Madison Square Garden, and a number of NFL and college team deals. For The History Channel, Scout negotiated title sponsorship of the Top Gear 300 Nationwide Series Race at Charlotte on May 28. Scout also supports the sports efforts of Crown ImportsCorona brands, and those of Jack in the Box.

    Terry Lefton can be reached at

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