SBJ/August 22-28, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

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  • EA builds people power into 'Madden' launch

    Following strong success for the “Madden NFL 12” cover vote effort in the spring, EA Sports will again lean heavily on fan input, grassroots marketing and social media for the release of the game Aug. 30.

    The video game publisher today begins “Club 100,” a five-day promotional effort in which fans can vote on which players should have a coveted maximum ranking of 100 in the game in each of five key skill categories. EA Sports partner ESPN will lead the vote effort, as it did for the cover vote that led to a victory for Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis. Exclusive Club 100-related content will be distributed through EA Sports’ Facebook, Twitter and YouTube extensions, as well as ESPN’s SportsNation.com.

    Results from the voting will be worked into a downloadable roster update available at the launch of the game.

    During the NFL season, fans will be prompted to vote on a weekly basis for “Madden” power rankings of teams, with results listed on EA Sports’ Facebook page.

    “We are looking to leverage as many tools as possible to make the fans feel part of the franchise,” said Anthony Stevenson, EA Sports marketing director. “The fans and their passion are what literally make ‘Madden’ what it is, and what we saw in the spring for the cover vote made it a natural to look to go a similar route for launch.”

    The cover vote, running March 21-April 27, drew 12.7 million votes.

    Again eschewing large-scale, launch-day festivals such as the previous “Maddenpalooza,” EA Sports will run its now-annual “Pigskin Pro-Am” Sunday on NBC. Filmed in New York’s Bryant Park in late July, the flag football game featured a mix of football hall of famers and Hollywood celebrities.

    EA Sports is also running coupon and awareness campaigns for “Madden” with GameStop, Wal-Mart, Amazon, Gillette, Procter & Gamble and Papa John’s, among others. EA Sports’ internal marketing budget for the launch, estimated in the low eight figures annually, is roughly the same this year, but with the partner activation, Stevenson said, the overall spending this year on “Madden” promotion has increased.

    “Madden NFL” sold more than 5.5 million copies last year, but during the NFL lockout, financial analysts suggested the potential for at least a 50 percent cut in sales. EA Chief Executive John Riccitiello had warned of a $250 million revenue challenge to EA, fueled in part by the lockout.

    But with labor peace and fan interest in football again surging, analysts are expecting strong returns.

    “I project it will do everything it did last year, and about 10 percent beyond, somewhere around 6 million,” said Michael Pachter, video game industry analyst for Wedbush Morgan Securities.

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  • A New Era for NFL caps

    While its NFL licensing rights don’t take effect until next year, New Era will take the lid off its new NFL cap collection at this week’s MAGIC apparel trade show in Las Vegas.

    The longtime MLB on-field rights holder signed a five-year NFL deal last Octoberk. It will start selling caps at retail next April.

    Among the caps being shown are various teams and styles of New Era’s 59Fifty, 39Thirty and 9Fifty snapback caps, segmented for sale at different times on the NFL calendar: the 2012 NFL draft, training camp, the regular season and the playoffs. New Era also is promising improved performance attributes for the forthcoming NFL line, including moisture-wicking and water-resistant fabrics.

    New Era will begin selling NFL caps at retail in April, replacing Reebok.
    The company will be showing more than 150 caps between its authentic, team and lifestyle collections.

    New Era President Pete Augustine said the company is developing an NFL marketing plan, with the help of agency Brooklyn Brothers, that will include NFL players and ads within NFL games. Augustine said that by the time 2011 is over, New Era will have added 180 employees to handle its NFL relationship.

    “The NFL is a huge opportunity for us and we are ramping up accordingly,” he said.

    Next month, before its U.S. rights kick in, New Era will begin selling NFL caps in Europe, in an eight-country retail program tied to the Oct. 23 Chicago-Tampa Bay game at London’s Wembley Stadium.

    A line of accessory products is also in development, but products like backpacks, bags, watches, sunglasses and belts won’t be available until spring 2013, at the earliest.

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  • WNBA lands Boost Mobile as top sponsor

    Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

    In one of the more lucrative, and certainly the most comprehensive, sponsorships in its history, the WNBA has signed Boost Mobile as its sole “marquee” partner in a deal that will put the company’s logo on most WNBA team jerseys.

    The deal puts Boost Mobile jersey patches on 10 of the WNBA’s 12 teams, excluding the Phoenix Mercury and the San Antonio Silver Stars, franchises that already have wireless sponsorship deals in place. The Mercury has a team deal with Verizon; the Silver Stars have a sponsorship with AT&T.

    WNBA
    Teams will debut the new jerseys this week.
    The marquee level is a new top marketing tier for the league, and this deal includes much more than the jersey inventory. Boost Mobile becomes the title sponsor of the WNBA All-Star Game as well as the presenting sponsor for this year’s WNBA playoffs and Finals.

    League officials would not disclose financial terms, but sources confirmed it is a multiyear, eight-figure deal.

    Irvine, Calif.-based Boost Mobile, a prepaid wireless service provider owned by Sprint, also gets floor, pole pad and courtside signage in WNBA arenas, and it becomes the presenting sponsor of the WNBA Tip-off season-opening platform and a partner of the WNBA draft. A media buy on WNBA national television broadcasts begins this season. Boost Mobile also will be the presenting sponsor of the WNBA’s Top 15 Moments program, which includes a special to be aired on NBA TV on Friday and an online fan vote for the reminder of this season, its 15th.

    The deal’s size and its scope make it one of the most significant sponsorships in WNBA history. Among previous deals, Discover Financial Services had its corporate logo on WNBA courts during nationally televised broadcasts and issued a league affinity card. Discover ended its WNBA deal in 2009.

    “[The Boost Mobile deal] is transformative in its size, scope and breadth,” said Laurel Richie, president of the WNBA. “Our focus is making the partnership as robust as we possibly can, and while I know there will be a lot of attention to the jersey component, we will be doing a ton of other activation programs.”

    Five WNBA teams already have jersey sponsorship deals: Phoenix with LifeLock; New York with Foxwoods Casino; Los Angeles with Farmers Insurance; Washington with Inova Health System; and Seattle with Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

    The league’s deal with Boost Mobile means those teams, with the exception of Phoenix, will share jersey advertising space with their respective partners. Other WNBA teams will still be able to sign their own local marquee deals, which include jersey sponsorships. “The Boost Mobile deal is good for the league and good for the teams,” said Greg Bibb, chief operating officer of the Washington Mystics, the most recent team to sign a local jersey sponsorship. “It will raise awareness of the league, and of the Mystics, which ultimately raises awareness of our local jersey partner.”

    The Boost Mobile jersey patches will be located below the numbers on the front of the team jerseys. WNBA teams will debut the new jerseys this week.

    The Boost Mobile deal comes during Richie’s first season as WNBA president. She joined the WNBA in May, but league-level marquee talks already had begun under the league’s sponsorship department led by Mark Tatum, executive vice president of global marketing partnerships for the NBA.

    “The WNBA had been thinking about this for quite a while,” Richie said. “The process was well under way before I got here.”

    The addition of Boost Mobile gives the league 15 corporate marketing partners.

    For Boost Mobile, which along with Virgin Mobile is one of two prepaid brands owned by Sprint, the WNBA deal represents a way to get its brand broad exposure at a good value. Boost Mobile has sponsorship deals with the UFC and is a sponsor of the Travis Pastrana-Michael Waltrip NASCAR Nationwide Series car. The company last season also was New York Knicks sponsor.

    “When we looked at the all the assets of the deal, from the jersey visibility to the court visibility to the overall stature of the Boost Mobile brand, it is a great alignment,” said Steve Gaffney, Sprint vice president of corporate marketing. “This is a cost-effective way to align with a premier women’s sports brand.”

    Octagon is the agency of record for Boost Mobile.

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