SBJ/October 17-23, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Geico near deal to keep NHL sponsorship for 3 more years

Terry Lefton
Geico is close to completing a renewal of its NHL sponsorship for an additional three years. The Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary has been a league sponsor since the 2010 Winter Classic in Boston and has inserted its caveman spokescharacters into NHL-themed advertising.

The deal includes digital inventory on NHL.com and TV units on NBC and Versus/NBC Sports Network, which this season will televise 100 regular-season games, up from 64 last year, and the entire Stanley Cup playoffs nationally.

Geico, a voracious media buyer that usually spends well in excess of its market share, also supports the league’s jewel events like the Winter Classic, and ties in locally with sponsorship/media deals across 20 NHL teams. Horizon Media’s Scout Sports & Entertainment negotiated the league deal.

With the season under way, sources tell us the renewals for incumbent NHL sponsors Bell Canada, Discover, McDonald’s, Verizon and Visa are also close. Without commenting directly on the pending renewals, Keith Wachtel, the NHL’s senior vice president of corporate sales and marketing, said things were “moving well in that area,” adding that new categories being targeted include autos in Canada (Honda has U.S. rights), along with spirits, men’s grooming, and pharmaceuticals.

IS EVERYTHING UP TO DATE IN K.C.?: Absent a sports championship since the Wiz won the MLS title in 2000, Kansas City gets few shots at the national sports limelight outside of a NASCAR race or two and the occasional Chiefs NFL playoff game. Next year’s MLB All-Star Game is another chance — and will be just the third time Kansas City has hosted the game. That calls for a new sales approach, right?

“It’s about selling more nationally or at least regionally,” said Mike Bucek, Royals vice president of marketing and business development. “We may be the No. 31 or 32 DMA but we draw from the region, and when you roll up Topeka, Wichita and other nearby markets, you’re talking about 6.5 million people. Then people get a lot more intrigued, so it’s important for us to sell that way.”

While Bucek says there’s not a lot more inventory being added to take advantage of the All-Star Game, the club is taking a look at naming rights. Wasserman Media Group has been retained for what Bucek called an analysis assignment. However, marketers at other Kansas City sports properties say Wasserman is also actively selling naming rights. No comment from Wasserman on this.

Whatever the case is, Bucek said a corporate name on the 38-year-old Ewing M. Kauffman Stadium, which opened as Royals Stadium but was renamed for the Royals’ original owner shortly before his death in 1993, is no slam dunk. As it stands, Kauffman Stadium is the last American League ballpark named after a person.

“We haven’t settled on it and we know Ewing Kauffman is beloved, so it would have to be a brand that was a good match, a deal that made sense monetarily, and not just some company that wants to plaster signs with their name on it all over a stadium our fans love,” Bucek said.

Anderson
Kansas City has been a challenging market for naming rights. Sprint put its name on a new downtown arena in 2004, but the Chiefs have been unable to sell the name to Arrowhead Stadium, and MLS’s Sporting KC opted for a cause-related tie that resulted in the name Livestrong Sporting Park.

COMINGS & GOINGS: Renie Anderson has been promoted to vice president of business development, sponsorship and media sales at the NFL after six years with the league, most recently as director of business development. League officials had been looking for an outsider to head new business, but “we looked around the marketplace and didn’t find anyone that measured up to her, so we’re building a team around her,” said Keith Turner, NFL senior vice president of media sales and sponsorship. He added that Anderson, a former Arena Football League sponsorship saleswoman, was instrumental in landing a number of new league sponsors, including USAA, Castrol and Marriott. Additional categories being targeted include airlines, rental car, technology and timing, Turner said. … Elizabeth Scott joins Lincoln Center as chief media and digital officer, a new position, after 12 years with MLB Properties, most recently as vice president of programming and business affairs.

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



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