SBJ/January 16-22, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

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  • How Allstate owned New Orleans

    Barges moved up and down the Mississippi River. The DirecTV blimp flew overhead. Sounds of music and partiers in the French Quarter wafted through the air.

    Staff writer Michael Smith talks about how Allstate capitalized on its title sponsorship during the week of the championship game.
    That was the setting for Allstate’s Fan Fest over two days last week in New Orleans during the weekend of the Allstate BCS championship game.

    Unlike the NCAA basketball tournament, where the NCAA controls the Big Dance and Bracket Town and sells space to its corporate partners, the BCS leaves on-site acquisition and activation up to the title sponsors. Allstate initiated all of its own activation at the BCS championship game.

    Allstate is the title sponsor of the Sugar Bowl and also the BCS title game when it’s in New Orleans every four years. The title sponsorship of the championship game rotates with the change in site, so Discover, title sponsor of the Orange Bowl, will be the BCS title sponsor next year when No. 1 plays No. 2 in Sun Life Stadium.

    In New Orleans last week, Allstate arranged to rent the fan fest space — roughly 60,000 square feet — from the city and sold space to other companies who wanted to be part of the festivities. Allstate estimated that almost 40,000 people visited the fan fest over two days, buoyed by two teams, Alabama and LSU, within driving distance of New Orleans, and a Saints playoff game that Saturday night before the Monday championship game.
    AT&T, Buick and Dr Pepper were among the six sponsors that bought into the fan fest and activated with fan interactives and autograph signings by former LSU and Alabama greats. Terms of the sponsor deals with Allstate weren’t available. Allstate also arranged for concerts by Cee Lo Green and The Neville Brothers. Green’s concert was streamed live on Allstate’s Facebook page for the first time.
    Allstate rented the fan fest area and sold space to other companies that wanted to take part.
    Photos by: ALLSTATE

    Allstate has activated with smaller footprints at the MLS Cup, where it is the league’s official insurance, and at a handful of U.S.-Mexico friendly soccer matches, but they don’t approach the scale of the fan fest in New Orleans.

    “This is completely our own initiative,” said Pam Hollander, Allstate’s senior director of sponsorship marketing. “We go out and solicit the footprint space to other companies.”

    Hollander and her team of eight executives from sponsorship marketing spent nearly two consecutive weeks in New Orleans as Allstate sponsored the Sugar Bowl, then the championship game.

    BCS game title sponsorships are sold through ESPN, the BCS’ TV partner, and they’re heavily loaded with media. These four-year title sponsorships are believed to be in the low eight figures, industry experts said.

    But Allstate has worked over the past six years to make its activation on the ground in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl — and the BCS title game when it’s in town — more robust. In all, Chicago-based Allstate had close to 400 executives and agents through New Orleans for the games, a number that has gradually increased over the six years of the sponsorship.

    Allstate's Agency Roster
    For the BCS championship game, Sugar Bowl

    IMG: Strategy and contract management

    Leo Burnett: Advertising

    Octagon: Fan fest and on-the-ground activation in New Orleans

    Performance Research: Sponsorship analysis

    Starcom: Media buying

    Taylor: Public relations

    Source: Allstate

    Most of those agents were awarded a trip to New Orleans as part of sales incentives the company established. Agent incentives and the fan fest were two of the most important activation elements on the ground in New Orleans.

    Allstate’s primary return-on-investment measurement is how many leads it can generate. Some of the agents worked the fan fest and answered insurance-related questions for the fans.

    “We look at a lot of things, from impressions to TV ratings, but lead generation is the monster for us,” Hollander said. “And what we’ve learned over the years is that the leads work for us.”

    While Allstate’s activation elements were clear to see on the streets of New Orleans, the part of the job that flies under the radar is coordinating the different agencies assisting the insurance giant.

    Hollander runs the point for a team that includes IMG on strategy and contract management, Octagon on activation, Leo Burnett for advertising, Starcom for media buying and Taylor for public relations. Many of those agencies also have post-event responsibilities. Taylor measures PR and news impressions, while Performance Research tracks attendees, viewership and other sponsorship analysis, and Octagon measures the leads generated by the fan fest.

    Octagon takes charge of the fan fest, while IMG makes sure that Allstate receives everything that is written in its title sponsorship contract with ESPN. That routinely puts those rival agencies in close contact.

    “The job title and the name of the agency have to be checked at the door,” Hollander said. “It’s all hands on deck and it’s important for each agency to know what the other is doing, through weekly all-agency calls.”

    And, of course, Allstate incorporates the field goal nets program, now in its seventh college football season, into its activation.

    Goal posts with Allstate nets were set up on both ends of the fan fest. Just down Decatur Street from the fan fest, Allstate played off its “Mayhem” ad campaign by smashing a goal post through the window of a car, saying that “Gameday parking is mayhem.”

    That seasonlong ad buy with ESPN complements the field goal nets program that now reaches across 71 schools, as well as the Sugar Bowl and BCS title sponsorship.

    “We set out to become part of the fabric of college football and we’ve done that,” Hollander said.


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  • John Isner says so long to the swoosh and hello to the gator

    John Isner, one of America’s top-ranked tennis players, has signed a four-year deal to wear Lacoste beginning this week at the Australian Open.

    Isner, 26, had worn Nike since even before his college days at the University of Georgia. His deal with Nike expired at the end of 2011.

    Isner signed with Lacoste as his deal with Nike expired at the end of 2011.
    Photo by: LACOSTE
    Sam Duvall, Isner’s agent at Lagardère Unlimited, said the main interest in the 6-foot-9 Isner came from Lacoste and several Chinese brands. He added that Lacoste’s prime interest in Isner may not necessarily be his tennis, but his height. Lacoste recently launched a big and tall line, Duvall said, and Isner is expected to be part of those marketing efforts.

    A Lacoste spokeswoman confirmed having a deal with Isner, noting via email that he would become “one of the Lacoste Ambassadors, both on and off the tennis court.”

    Isner was ranked No. 17 worldwide last week. In addition to his height, he is perhaps best known for competing in the longest match ever played, at 2010 Wimbledon, winning a first-round encounter against Nicolas Mahut that stretched over three days and consumed 11 hours and five minutes.

    Isner’s contract will guarantee him around mid-six figures annually, though performance could significantly increase the amounts well into the seven figures. The deal does not cover footwear, and Isner for the time being will continue to wear Nike sneakers.


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  • Monster to keep scaring up business in AMA Supercross

    Monster Energy’s signature black and lime color scheme will dominate the pits of AMA Supercross races through 2016.

    The energy drink brand, which is owned by Hansen Beverage Co., signed an early extension with AMA Supercross owner Feld Motor Sports. It has been the title sponsor of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series since 2008.

    Terms of the extension weren’t available. The original deal was valued at $3.5 million to $4 million annually.

    The energy drink brand has extended its series deal, which began in 2008.
    Photo by: HOPPENWORLD.COM
    Monster Energy will get all of the same rights it enjoyed under the previous deal, which included on-site activation rights, media inventory and hospitality for all 17 supercross races. It will add a Monster Energy-branded monster truck, which will be featured in the Feld Motor Sports-owned Monster Jam, a monster truck series that visits arenas nationwide.

    “Our sponsorship investments for the most part are with athletes,” said Bruce Stjernstrom, Monster Energy’s vice president of sports marketing. “We really look at the event sponsorship and ask how do we make the sport synonymous with us. Working with Feld, Monster is supercross-motocross and supercross-motocross is Monster.”

    Feld Motor Sports Chief Operating Officer Ken Hudgens said, “[Monster Energy is] a perfect partner in that they provide stability, they’re a skyrocketing, growing brand, they really activate around the sponsorship and they take supercross to a place from a branding standpoint that it couldn’t go on its own. They make the sport more relevant and cool and give it a vibe that we couldn’t.”

    Since signing on as the title sponsor of supercross, Monster Energy has seen Feld gradually expand television coverage of the event. The series last year renegotiated its broadcast agreement with Speed to increase the number of live races on the cable channel from eight last year to 11 this year. The renegotiated deal means that every race this year will be televised live on Speed except six races that are broadcast live-to-tape on CBS.

    The companies plan to continue to collaborate on the Monster Energy Cup, which was held for the first time last October in Las Vegas. They created the event together and awarded $1 million to rider Ryan Villopoto after he won the last three races of the year.

    “A big part of it for us is how do we bring what Monster represents — youth, excitement, energy, fun — to our fans,” Stjernstrom said.

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  • Toyota: NHRA footprint anything but a drag

    A decade after jumping into NHRA racing, Toyota is expanding its footprint in the sport, closing a race title sponsorship deal and expanding its advertising support.

    The company signed a multiyear deal to title sponsor the NHRA’s race in Englishtown, N.J., which will be called the Toyota NHRA SuperNationals. It also will have advertising inventory during all 28 NHRA races on ESPN2 in 2012. It advertised during eight races last year.

    The Funny Cars Toyota sponsors are patterned after the Camry. The company will sponsor four Funny Cars across two teams and five Top Fuel cars across three teams.
    Photo by: COURTESY OF NHRA
    “Toyota gets into things for the long run and it usually eases into them,” said Don Brown, Toyota’s national motorsports manager.

    “The previous agreement worked well for us. We had a good return. We’re finding the fan is different in NASCAR and there’s a lot more opportunity to get a good report going with the fan in drag racing.”

    Toyota had 72,000 people visit its displays over six NHRA races in 2011. Brown said the company will bring its Toyota Owners Hospitality program to nine races this year. It brought the program to one race last year.

    “This is a different type of atmosphere from a NASCAR race,” Brown said. “You don’t have to set up and take it down when the race begins. There’s more time to interact with fans.”

    In addition to the on-air advertising and race title sponsorship, Toyota will have associate sponsorships with five Top Fuel cars across three teams: Al-Anabi Racing, Don Schumacher Racing and Morgan Lucas Racing. It will sponsor four Funny Cars across two teams: Kalitta Motorsports and Pedregon Racing. Those Funny Cars will be patterned after the Toyota Camry.

    Brown said Toyota would like to further expand its relationship with the NHRA next year. He said the company’s ability to do so will be dictated by its business performance and economic conditions.

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  • What’s that unfamiliar feeling for marketers? It’s optimism

    Terry Lefton
    It’s the time of year when every sports agency chief is either trying to assess 2012 prospects on his own or is being asked to do so by his shareholders or parent company.

    For most, 2011 was The Big Sigh: a year of relief after some recessionary years when clients pared budgets instead of building marketing programs. This year, coming into a Summer Olympics year and out of a dark economy, nearly every agency reported generous growth for 2011, as clients returned from the sidelines.
    So in many cases, there’s an unfamiliar feeling of optimism.

    “I feel better than I have going into this year than any since 2007,” said Rick Dudley, president and CEO of IPG’s Octagon, which had North American revenue growth of around 15 percent for 2011. “The Olympics are driving a lot of business, Brazil is on fire, and the corporate sector in North America is very positive when it comes to marketing investments, old and new. So all in all, I feel very good about it — which worries the hell out of me,” he chuckled.

    Added Dan Belmont, president of Omnicom’s The Marketing Arm, “You’re talking about a year [2011] where there was not a lot of bad news at all,” he said. Based on business like Wal-Mart’s NASCAR program and expansion of existing relationships with AT&T and State Farm, The Marketing Arm in 2011 saw low double-digit growth, hired 150 additional employees (though not all sports-dedicated) and is planning to hire another 100 with around the same level of growth forecast for 2012. “So we all worry to some degree,” Belmont said, “but by comparison …”

    "Sports marketing continues to demonstrate value, consistency, predictability, and in an environment where most other business lacks all three of those things. So with an economic recovery, you’re seeing more investment."
    — CASEY WASSERMAN
    Wasserman Media Group
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    Call it the new era of good feelings. A few years after sports marketing as a discipline was called into question by politicians eager for a political football, there’s talk about coping with growth.

    “Sports marketing continues to demonstrate value, consistency, predictability, and in an environment where most other business lacks all three of those things,” said Wasserman Media Group chairman and founder Casey Wasserman. “So with an economic recovery, you’re seeing more investment.”

    IMG Consulting chief David Abrutyn is also reporting double-digit growth and says that the stature of agencies has been elevated.

    “If you accept the premise that the business is healthy because of sports’ ability to cut through an extremely cluttered environment and deliver meaningful audiences at venue or on TV, then I look at the increasing complexities and dollars involved and say only a bit tongue-in-cheek that the sports agency guys are the ‘Mad Men’ of today,” he said. “As long as that is true, the future is going to be good for this business.”

    Working one’s way down the agency food chain, growth rates are even larger.

    Marc Bluestein at boutique shop Aquarius Sports & Entertainment, Fulton, Md., saw a 30-plus percent bottom-line increase, helped in large part by the holding company of a regional AAA business merging with another, meaning his AAA business grew from six states to 21 states. “There’s a willingness from clients to try something new now that had almost disappeared,” Bluestein said.

    At Richards Sports & Entertainment, Dallas, which took MetroPCS into a new UFC sponsorship, the 2011 books aren’t closed yet, but principal Kern Egan points to 30 percent growth and increased hiring for 2012. “As an industry, we’re better at setting client objectives and showing return,” he said. “Without that, you just become the ticket and hospitality provider, which can be limiting.”

    The Olympics have always fueled sports spending. Mike Reisman, principal at Aegis Group’s Team Epic, says even that anticipated spend is growing.

    “Everyone had a good run-up in 2011, and Olympic sponsors will be getting out of the gate earlier,” said Reisman, adding that his agency had 25 percent top-line growth in 2011. “From an industry perspective, these will be the first real digital/social Olympics, so you should see new kinds of activation.”

    Greg Luckman, who left GroupM ESP in August to found a consulting practice at CAA Sports, said that as the year changed, he saw some of the old rules changing.

    “Category exclusivity within a specific sport is an outdated notion,” he said. “There are so many ways in: leagues, teams, talent, media, content. Our clients are no longer briefing us to develop a ‘sponsorship’ strategy, but a ‘sports’ strategy that may or may not include traditional sponsorships.”

    The search for new categories is unending in good times and bad.

    Agency types suggested energy and alternative energy, health care, and online educational institutions as growth areas. Randy Bernstein, whose Premier Partnerships reported its best year yet, with 30 percent growth, suggested that as the recovery continues, “luxury goods should come out of hiding where they have been for the last three to four years, when it comes to marketing.”

    Asked about pressing issues for 2012, executives spoke of the need for additional bandwidth at sports facilities as well as the need to develop applications for smartphones and tablets in a way that would help the fan experience at those venues and give the wireless marketers that are heavily invested across sports an enhanced consumer connection.

    “We’re all trying some interesting things with social media, but the opportunity at sports venues is real and immediate,” Belmont said.

    Elsewhere in the digital space, with content giants like Apple starting to look at valuable rights, like the EPL, and the advent of “smart TVs,” which combine broadband with regular TV content, many are asking if mainstream TV’s influence on sports could be waning — even as top-tier rights fees continue to hit record levels.

    “Companies like Google are coming into sports,” said Reisman, whose agency handles myspace.com, “and that’s the ultimate game-changer for networks.”

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

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  • Top amateur likely to keep endorsement in the family

    It doesn’t quite have the “Of course!” feel of this month’s news of PBR sponsoring the Pro Bull Riders — but it’s close.

    Titleist officials are in talks with the agent for golfer Peter Uihlein, son of the CEO for the brand’s parent company, Acushnet, and a deal may be completed before the 2010 U.S. Amateur champion’s first pro start in Europe later this month.

    Titleist is in talks with Peter Uihlein, son of Acushnet CEO Wally Uihlein. Acushnet is Titleist’s parent company.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    The deal is being negotiated by Jerry Bellis, president of Titleist Golf Balls Worldwide, and Mac Fritz, Titleist vice president of tour promotion, with Uihlein’s agent, Chubby Chandler.

    Uihlein’s father, Wally Uihlein, has recused himself from the negotiations. Achushnet owns the Titleist, Footjoy and other leading golf brands.

    “We are definitely going to have a relationship with Peter,” Fritz said last week. “It has nothing to do with his last name. It has everything to do with his track record. He was the No. 1-ranked amateur for 12 consecutive months. He did it on his own, not with his father.”

    Chandler, when asked if Peter Uihlein would sign with Titleist, said, “What do you think?”

    Uihlein has played with Titleist equipment since he was a boy.

    “I would be amazed if he doesn’t get a Titleist deal,” Chandler said, noting that a deal likely would put the Titleist logo on the front of his cap.

    Wally Uihlein, in an email, stressed that he had recused himself from his son’s equipment deal talks. “However, in all fairness to Peter,” he wrote, “I think he is an intelligent enough of a young man to understand what is the politically correct thing to do.”

    Peter Uihlein is expected to make his pro debut at a European Challenge Tour event in Ahmedabad, India, on Jan. 26.

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