SBJ/November 14-20, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Shaq among latest to take ‘Journey’ for Dove Men+Care

Terry Lefton
Having amassed a Rookie of the Year award, 15 All-Star Game selections and four NBA titles during his years in the NBA, Shaquille O’Neal is rightfully more celebrated as a pro than a collegiate ballplayer. Lest we forget, though, in his three years at LSU, he made Tigers fans forget about football — at least after bowl season.

Shaq was a two-time All-American and two-time SEC Player of the Year, and he received the Adolph Rupp Trophy as the NCAA’s top hoopster in 1991. He left LSU to go pro before his senior year but returned to get a B.A. With those kinds of collegiate credentials, maybe it’s appropriate that he’s one of the new trio of basketballers who will be featured in a “Journey to Comfort” campaign for the Dove Men+Care personal products line that will make its debut in time for March Madness next year.

Shaq will be making what we believe is his first post-retirement endorsement for the Unilever brand by appearing in the 19-month-old “Journey” TV and Web campaign. Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo and Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash also will be new participants in the campaign, though one source told us Nash’s deal is less solid than the other two.

Last year, Unilever complemented its NCAA corporate sponsorship rights with a March Madness “Journey to Comfort” campaign that included Magic Johnson, Georgetown coach John Thompson III and former Duke star Bobby Hurley. Shaq, Izzo and Nash would join a “Journey” athlete roster that also includes ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, and MLBers Joe Girardi and Andy Pettitte. Without attributing directly to the “Journey to Comfort” creative work, Rob Candelino, Unilever marketing director of personal wash, U.S., told SportsBusiness Journal last month that since its launch, the line has exceeded expectations in terms of trial, market share, brand equity and sales.

Coors Light and Molson Canadian share the spotlight in this NHL-themed display at a U.S. Wal-Mart.
Photo by: MILLERCOORS
SUDS ’N SKATES:
Don’t try to tell us that beer isn’t as endemic a sponsorship category in sports as footwear and athletic equipment. We’ve been at this craft long enough that we recall when tubs of free beer in iced cans were as common in NHL locker rooms as towels and Bengay. When the NHL announced its nearly $400 million sponsorship deal with MillerCoors (U.S.) and Molson Coors (Canada) earlier this year, MillerCoors CMO Andy England noted that hockey fans are the biggest per capita beer consumers of any major sports property.

One of the intriguing things was which brands would get the benefit of the sponsorship.

Molson Coors, now unfettered since the lawsuit from incumbent Anheuser-Busch is over, is moving forward north of the border, where Molson Canadian is the No. 1 brand and Coors Light is No. 3. Both brands are using the NHL as a marketing platform, and Molson Export also gets the nod in Quebec.

Molson Coors has exclusives in Canada with the NHL teams in Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. Molson Canadian is taking the lead at the club level, in terms of arena signs, promotions and media, but both brands will activate heavily in Canada around events like the Winter Classic, the 2012 NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa and the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“Having the NHL [rights] is opening up a lot of new doors,” said Pat McEleney, Molson Coors’ senior director of sports and entertainment. “We can now leverage across the country with the NHL.”

In the U.S., No. 2 Coors Light is about 30 times bigger than Molson, but the NHL is Molson’s only U.S. sports property, so it could look similar in terms of retail support, depending on the market, with the Northeast and Great Lakes regions getting a lot of support. At this season’s Winter Classic in Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, Molson Canadian will take the lead, with signs on and around the ice, while Coors Light will be the brand running spots on NBC’s broadcast of the Jan. 2 outdoor game.

Coors Light will carry much of the media weight for the postseason in the U.S., but both brands will run promos, with Coors Light giving away trips to the Stanley Cup Final and Molson Canadian dangling getaways to the June NHL awards ceremony in Las Vegas.

“Two months in and we’ve already seen incremental lifts in display and sales on Molson,” said Ryan Luckey, MillerCoors director of sports and entertainment marketing.

THE TIFFANY OF LICENSED MERCH: We’ll never confuse Tiffany’s gilded offerings with those from a licensed product manufacturer like WinCraft. Still, we are noticing that Tiffany is offering an increasing selection of licensed and co-branded items as it signs more deals with sports properties. Being associated with life’s memorable moments is clearly the endgame. However, every new association seems to bring with it another section of co-branded Tiffany sports products for properties for which Tiffany also makes championship trophies and rings.

“I don’t think we’ll ever be known for licensed products,” said a laughing Tom O’Rourke, vice president of business sales for Tiffany & Co., “but they fit nicely with the relationships we’ve established in sports.”

A recent tie-in with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association has Tiffany making the Gold Pass given to those contributing $10,000 or more annually to the NGB. There also, however, will be 12 items in Tiffany’s forthcoming U.S. Ski and Snowboard retail collection, including silver cufflinks, charms, bracelets and barware, ranging from $50 to $500.

Tiffany merchandise marked the Giants’ Series victory.
A selection of San Francisco Giants’ championship items and New Orleans Saints’ Super Bowl champion items from past years were top sellers.

“We’re about recognizing and celebrating important milestones, whether that’s an anniversary, a baby or a championship,” O’Rourke said. “Sports help to cement that relationship.”

COMINGS & GOINGS: Former MLB Properties chief Rick White is back in sports licensing as an equity partner and principal at Strategic Marketing Affiliates, an Indianapolis-based licensing agency representing more than 230 colleges and universities, mostly smaller schools but a range from universities as renowned as Butler and as obscure as the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. White, who will be a co-principal with SMA Chief Executive Bob Bernard, said he’s looking to grow SMA’s licensing business outside of the collegiate space and in related areas like sponsorship and consulting. “SMA has developed a competency in licensing, so now it’s about how far we can take that demonstrated expertise in IP and extend it,” White said. … Alex Gomez is moving to Media Ventures Group, New York, as a vice president. He’d been with Van Wagner Sports since 2003. … Jim Donofrio is now with NBC Sports in a sales and marketing role after a stint with CSE, where he’d worked with Mark Lazarus, now NBC Sports Group chairman.

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

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