SBJ/February 20-26, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

All-Star/Daytona Sunday a sponsor sprint for Sprint

If you find yourself traveling across Central Florida on I-4 this weekend, there’s a good chance you’ll pass a convoy of SUVs ferrying Sprint executives between two of sports’ biggest events, the Daytona 500 and the NBA All-Star Game in Orlando.

Sprint will juggle both of its biggest sports properties for the first time after signing this season as the NBA’s official wireless service sponsor with a four-year deal while also renewing its agreement as the title sponsor of NASCAR’s top series.

The Sprint-sponsored All-Star Pregame Concert is a new event this year for the NBA, and a major part of Sprint’s weekend activation.
Typically, the company’s sponsorships would have been activated on the same weekend in two separate states, but this year the NBA and NASCAR are hosting two of their biggest annual events within 55 miles of each other.

“We will take full advantage,” said Steve Gaffney, Sprint’s vice president, corporate marketing. “We have all these assets at our disposal. We’re not thinking about it as how much to divide, but how to capitalize on two very marquee properties.”

In a whirlwind effort to manage activities at both sites, Gaffney and the company’s executive team will spend considerable time shuttling between Orlando and Daytona in a fleet of SUVs.

Gaffney plans to stay in Orlando for the weekend, where Sprint will host about 30 guests. He’ll spend Friday at the NBA’s technology summit there and attend the Sprint-sponsored All-Star Celebrity Game that evening at the NBA Jam Session. He will travel to Daytona on Saturday morning to evaluate the company’s on-site activities there, return to Orlando Saturday night for the NBA All-Star Saturday Night, wake up and head back to Daytona Sunday morning for pre-race hospitality events and the opening laps of the 500. Then he will return to Orlando on Sunday in time for the company-sponsored pregame concert at the Amway Center and for the start of the All-Star Game.

The Sprint-sponsored pregame concert, featuring the hip-hop group Gym Class Heroes, is a new event for the NBA and is a key part of the company’s activation plan around All-Star Weekend.

NASCAR chief marketer Steve Phelps, who has been in the sports business for two decades with the NFL, Wasserman Media Group and NASCAR, said he can’t recall an example of a brand executive juggling two major sporting events the way Gaffney will all weekend.

“A lot of times it’s weekend to weekend to weekend from NHL All-Star to Super Bowl to NBA All-Star to Daytona, but it’s unusual that the proximity of the two is so close,” Phelps said. “That’s pretty cool.”

Sprint’s CEO Dan Hesse and Chief Marketing Officer Bill Malloy will also be on hand for the start of the Daytona 500 at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday and tipoff of the All-Star Game at 7:37 p.m. The company is considering renting a helicopter to get them to and from Daytona that Sunday. Sprint will not be taking customers to both events.

“We view this as a unique opportunity, given the proximity of the two events on the same weekend,” Gaffney said. “We’re going to get a lot of visibility with two very attractive fan bases on a one-on-one basis and through a very comprehensive media plan throughout the weekend.”

Sprint’s marketing plans for both events include everything from on-site displays to sponsored concerts, hospitality functions and TV commercials. Though Sprint will have a major presence in both Daytona and Orlando, executives will pay particular attention to the NBA given that it is the first time the company has activated around All-Star Weekend.

“On the NBA side, it is about executing flawlessly and learning,” Gaffney said.

In Orlando, Sprint’s on-site efforts will be located at the NBA’s interactive Jam Session, where the company will have a live DJ, branded interactive touch screens to push product, and a half-court basketball court.

In Daytona, Sprint will roll out its Sprint Experience activation, which the company has taken to races around the country in recent years. The 14,400-square-foot display, which hosted more than 500,000 fans in 2011, will offer Miss Sprint Cup autograph sessions, interactive games, a cutaway show car and giveaways for Sprint customers.

Because Sprint is title sponsor of NASCAR’s top series, it has more assets at the 500 and will host approximately 300 people, including businesses, small businesses, wholesale customers and individual consumers.

“They have a presence there that’s hard to miss,” Phelps said. “They have signage at the track, the Sprint Cup mobile app with 3 million users, customers they host and consumers who win sweepstakes. They spread themselves out across the sport from drivers to tracks to teams to media partners.”

Octagon assisted Sprint with its plans for both events. JHE will manage its on-site activities at both events.

While the on-site activities are important, Florida is not a top-10 market for Sprint, Gaffney said. The company does have a strong presence in several markets, including Orlando and Miami, but it sees this Sunday as a chance to raise its brand awareness nationally through TV. Last year’s Daytona 500 earned an 8.7 Nielsen rating and drew 15.6 million viewers on Fox, while the NBA All-Star Game earned a 5.2 Nielsen rating and drew 9.093 million viewers on TNT.

“We want big numbers, big ratings, off both events,” Gaffney said.
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