SBJ/June 6-12, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

A summer of waiting under way for NFL player marketers

Terry Lefton
Many brand marketers with NFL ties are waiting it out right now, so as the non-negotiations drag on, most marketing agents representing NFL talent are preparing for their summer of discontent — one that will be hot, sweaty and bereft of any deals.

“It’s really slow,” said a marketer at an agency that represents more than five NFL starting quarterbacks when asked about the state of the NFL athlete endorsement market. “We’re hoping for a settlement but preparing for the worst. It is completely frozen on this side, with the exception of a few trading-card deals. The shoe and apparel deals had already come down, but a lot of those companies are waiting, too.”

A marketer at an agency with NFL sponsors as clients described the situation as “hurry up and wait.” “We are looking at [story] boards, we are looking at players, but everything is very stop and go,” the marketer said.

Non-NFL sponsors that have invested in players to gain leverage without having to pay those pricey NFL rights fees are in even more of a quandary.

“If you don’t think there is going to be football on Sundays, do you want to pay an endorsement fee, pay for a production day with an athlete, and make a media buy?” asked a talent marketer who cuts off-the-field deals for some of the NFL’s highest-profile QBs, adding that there has been a notable dropoff in appearances and media tours for NFL athletes this offseason because of the negatives associated with the lockout. “It’s a negative situation, so sponsors don’t want to be part of it. And what scares me is that right behind the NFL will be an NBA lockout with the same effect.”

GETTY IMAGES
Saints QB Drew Brees and son Baylen, who joined his MVP dad on the field after Super Bowl XLIV, will appear in ads for Vicks DayQuil and NyQuil cold medicines.
However, amid all the inactivity, we are happy to report some activation involving NFL athletes. Procter & Gamble recently concluded shoots in New Orleans and Vancouver for its Vicks DayQuil and NyQuil brands of cold and flu medicine. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is back for his second year with the campaign, and we are told his son Baylen, who endeared himself to much of America in an appearance with dad on the dais during the post-Super Bowl XLIV celebration two season ago, will also make an appearance.

In addition, an NFL coach has been added to the campaign this season. Chicago’s Lovie Smith will make his first national appearance on behalf of a brand, not including when he wears Reebok’s NFL togs on game days. We’re also told that Calgary Flames all-time leading scorer Jerome Iginla will appear in the campaign, but those spots will only be seen in Canada.

Chris Stuart of Carlsbad, Calif.-based Encore Sports & Entertainment, reps Brees. Smith is represented by Chicago attorney Andrew Stroth and Matthew Smith, Lovie’s son, who also helped negotiate a recent two-year contract extension for the coach.

Team Epic’s Riber Sports Marketing Group, Cincinnati, handled for P&G.

PATRICK E. MCCARTHY
Ray Bednar is back in the agency business at Hyperion Marketing Returns-Rockefeller Consulting.
BANKING ON IT:
Former Bank of America sponsorship chief Ray Bednar, an early disciple of the importance of sponsorship ROI, has opened an agency dedicated to that practice. Bednar, along with Sponsor Direct’s Mark Rockefeller, has opened Hyperion Marketing Returns-Rockefeller Consulting. The company will be located with other Rockefeller Consulting firms at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. Bednar will be president and will eventually relocate to New York City.

Considering Bednar’s experience with sports and sponsorship, the practice will begin with those areas but not be limited to them. “We’ll move it from sports sponsorship and a portfolio ROI function to strategic recommendations, and marketing ROI in general, over time,” said Bednar, adding that he has two clients signed up, which he would not disclose.

The move puts Bednar back in the agency business; he was at WPP’s Prism from 2002 to 2006.

HORSING AROUND: Emirates Airline is back for its seventh year as a sponsor of the Breeders’ Cup. The two-year renewal as the Breeders’ Cup official commercial airline (Sentient has the private aviation category) sees the Dubai-based airline continue as title sponsor of the $2 million Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf Division, the $3 million Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf races, and presenting sponsor of Breeders’ Cup Challenge races on ESPN this summer and fall.

Emirates continues to expand its presence within horse racing. It also is a sponsor of the June 11 Belmont Stakes and has additional track sponsorships at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla.; Woodbine Race Course in Toronto; Lone Star Park near Dallas; Del Mar Race Track near San Diego; and Emerald Downs in Seattle.

“The Breeders’ Cup and thoroughbred racing in general continue to reach Emirates’ target of high-net-worth clients, so they continue to be one of our biggest commercial supporters and they continue to expand across the sport,” said Carter Carnegie, Breeders’ Cup senior vice president of sales.

Meanwhile, Breeders’ Cup officials this summer are expected to decide on where the event will be hosted in the future. Santa Anita Park near Los Angeles, Belmont near New York City and Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., host site for 2010 and 2011, are all possibilities.

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