SBJ/September 3-9, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

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  • Big college buys for Lowe's, Hershey

    IMG College’s national sponsorship platform is beginning to reap big-dollar rewards.

    Lowe’s and Hershey, a pair of companies with heavy spends in the college space already, have struck large multimillion-dollar sponsorship deals with several schools in IMG College’s portfolio. IMG College is the multimedia rights holder for 77 colleges, as well as several conferences, bowl games and other college properties.

    The Lowe’s four-year deal, thought to be the largest non-network TV sponsorship in college sports, covers all 77 schools and gives the home improvement retailer exclusive rights to sponsor each school’s mobile app and homecoming activities. The North Carolina-based company also will have status with each school as the official home improvement store.

    The Lowe’s deal is the first to go across all of IMG College’s schools. Previously, the broadest deal IMG College had closed was with UPS for 68 schools and close to $60 million in annual fees and activation. Annual spending for Lowe’s was not released, but industry sources say it will be in the same ballpark as the UPS deal.

    Hershey’s contract has been finalized, industry sources say, but the company and IMG College would not comment last week. An announcement is expected in the coming weeks.

    Industry sources say that Hershey will activate heavily at retail with the college marks it has acquired in the deal, primarily with its Reese’s brand. The number of schools in Hershey’s deal is thought to be in the 40 to 45 range and the company will own the confections category for those schools.

    Its focus will be mostly on in-store merchandising, with use of the schools’ logos on packaging, and radio advertising across those schools. The point-of-sale materials will utilize Hershey’s new relationship with the schools in each market, giving it the ability to localize its marketing.

    The college deal also enables Hershey to use more than one school mark on a single product, in cases where multiple schools might be in the same market.

    Hershey is the first consumer packaged goods company to sign a comprehensive deal with IMG College. UPS, MillerCoors, and Hyundai were the first major brands to sign deals with IMG College last year.

    Hershey and Lowe’s, both of which are represented by GMR Marketing, also have NCAA corporate partnerships, which are separate from their deals with IMG College.

    Lowe’s has been an NCAA sponsor since November 2005 and its most recent extension will end in 2013. The company, which reported lower-than-expected second-quarter earnings last month, is evaluating its NCAA deal and whether it should renew. Lowe’s already has decided not to renew sponsorship of the Senior Class Award, which it had sponsored since 2006.

    Hershey has been with the NCAA since 2008.

    Turner Sports and CBS represent the NCAA on its corporate partner program. Those deals can range from $10 million to $15 million a year and they’re heavy in media, but the IMG College deal will give Lowe’s and Hershey more on-the-ground activation opportunities with their schools.

    Business has been sluggish for Lowe’s as it tries to hold its ground against industry front-runner Home Depot. Lowe’s, the world’s No. 2 home improvement chain, had to cut its profit projections for the fiscal year after second-quarter sales dropped versus the same period a year ago. This was on the heels of a better-than-expected report from Home Depot.

    But the IMG deal with Lowe’s had been in the works for most of this year and sources said they initially reached an agreement in New Orleans at the Final Four in April. They spent the rest of the summer finalizing details on how Lowe’s could own the mobile app and homecoming space across all of IMG College’s schools.

    “This is a really unique way for Lowe’s to reach the alumni,” said Roger VanDerSnick, IMG College’s chief sales and marketing officer. “You’ll see big activation parties on site at the games and a host of other assets. When we started these conversations with Lowe’s, they expressed a desire to reach the recent college graduate and that’s what led to the homecoming idea. I think you’ll see more nontraditional designs like that if it meets the sponsor’s needs.”

    The school apps typically provide fans with game-day information like parking, traffic, maps, stadium information and other game features, including lineups, stats, schedules and video offerings. IMG College has been working with Chicago-based Silver Chalice to create an app for schools that don’t already have one.

    The Lowe’s-sponsored apps are expected to be free to fans, while a premium version will likely include the radio broadcast.

    “Reaching fans through their schools’ official social media channels, from apps to Facebook and Twitter, helps us join passionate conversations that are all about fun and memorable experiences,” Tom Lamb, Lowe’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement released by the company. “This unprecedented agreement puts Lowe’s in a position to be top of mind for college sports fans.”

    IMG College’s VanDerSnick and Lawton Logan, senior vice president for U.S. business development, worked with the Lowe’s marketing team — primarily Lamb and marketing manager Brian Harris — to close the deal.

    “It’s encouraging that blue-chip companies are seeing the power of this national platform,” VanDerSnick said.

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  • Courtyard by Marriott launches NFL award

    Marriott is launching a “Greatness on the Road” player of the week award to support the second year of its NFL corporate sponsorship.

    The program for Marriott’s Courtyard brand, the league’s official hotel, will be supported with an ad buy across NFL Network’s expanded Thursday night TV package. Associated marketing includes a guest road warrior of the week, to be awarded with frequency/loyalty points; an appearance on Courtyard’s Facebook page; and a chance to win a trip to Super Bowl XLVII, where the final 2012 Greatness on the Road winner will be named.

    An additional Facebook sweepstakes offers a top prize of trips and tickets to each of the winner’s favorite NFL team’s 2013 regular-season road games, an instant-win scratch-off game at Courtyards and a special Courtyard NFL Fan Package for weekends during the season.

    IMG Consulting handles marketing for Marriott.

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  • Firm extends corporate perks to schools’ fans

    As former Zappos executive Tom Ellingson shook hands with driver Carl Edwards a few years ago just before the NASCAR race started, he was struck by the access he enjoyed in the pits. What if, he thought, a company could specialize in selling that kind of unique access — usually reserved for corporate guests and big-spending sponsors — to average fans?

    Ellingson and a co-worker, Dean Curtis, left Zappos about a year ago to form such a business. They founded Fandeavor as a company that sells game-day experiences for fans who typically wouldn’t have access to the sidelines of major sporting events, and they decided to start their business in the college space because they thought the passion among college fans would drive growth the quickest. Multiple college seasons, from football to basketball to baseball, also offered the longest selling period.

    After a couple of trial runs went well earlier this year, Las Vegas-based Fandeavor formally launched last month, selling game-day experiences at four colleges: Southern California, TCU, Arizona State and UNLV.

    While Fandeavor intends to move into the professional leagues at some point, Ellingson and Curtis have found enough early success to make them think that the college space was the right place to launch.

    Curtis
    “We were involved in enough sponsorships at Zappos that we saw firsthand how these assets of sideline passes at a football game or hot passes at a NASCAR race are used to engage corporate partners,” Ellingson said. “So we’ve known that these types of passes exist, but we don’t think they’ve been fully utilized. Imagine if a fan had the same opportunity to be on the sideline when the team runs out of the tunnel. That was the genesis of the idea.”

    Ellingson, who ran business development for Zappos, and Curtis, a software developer and engineer, found financial backing from a couple of familiar faces. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has provided funding from his VegasTechFund, and
    Ellingson
    Erik Moore, an early Zappos investor, also is backing the startup. Combined, Fandeavor has raised $525,000 to get the company up and running.

    They did trial runs with the Las Vegas Invitational college basketball tournament last winter and a Real Madrid soccer exhibition in Las Vegas last spring, selling sideline access locally in the Vegas market. Feedback from fans was strong enough that they moved forward with the concept.

    In the last few months, Ellingson has been meeting with universities and their rights holders to acquire the rights necessary to offer these game-day experiences at college football and basketball games.

    “It’s what we’re doing already with our corporate partners,” said Mike Kohler, general manager of the IMG College property at Arizona State. “It’s just being packaged and sold differently to the fans.”

    Typically, Fandeavor pays a promotional fee to the rights holder, like an IMG College or Learfield, and Fandeavor shares the revenue from its sales with the rights holder.

    Packages range from $250 to $500 for two people. A base package would include tickets in the stadium’s lower level, a stadium tour, apparel from the home team and pregame hospitality. The “ultimate” package at the higher price would include those elements plus sideline access before the game and an appearance on the stadium’s video board.

    The company continues to seek more assets to include in the packages. At Southern Cal, Fandeavor is now offering tours of the new McKay Athletic Center with its game-day assets. It also is exploring the possibility of a quick handshake with a coach on the sideline just before the game, but those experiences are the toughest to acquire.

    The chief challenge for Fandeavor, Ellingson said, is coming up with enough experiences during the game to build more value into the packages.

    “At some schools, it’s more difficult to get sideline passes than other schools. Each place is different,” he said. “You have to understand what the fan wants, and how the experience at ASU might be different than the experience at TCU.”

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  • MMOD veteran Ferreira to run Learfield content

    Joe Ferreira, who worked with CBS to launch March Madness on Demand and Amen Corner Live, has joined Learfield Sports in the newly created position of chief content officer.

    Ferreira will report to Learfield CEO Greg Brown and will work from the company’s Dallas office with oversight of all content and distribution platforms. Learfield is the multimedia rights holder for close to 50 colleges, including North Carolina, Oklahoma, Alabama, Penn State and Wisconsin.

    Brown called Ferreira’s hiring “a significant milestone for Learfield.”

    Ferreira spent 25 years in TV and digital at CBS, CBS SportsLine, the NFL and NBC. He was at CBS from 2000 to 2011 during a time when the network teamed with the NCAA to launch March Madness on Demand, which delivered NCAA tournament games for free online and on mobile devices. Amen Corner Live similarly brought the first live online broadcast from the Masters for free.

    At Learfield, Ferreira will work on the development of digital, mobile, social, radio and TV assets across all of the company’s school partners. Learfield’s rights at most of those schools include digital, radio and some local TV. It also has the rights to develop unique content for any of those platforms.

    “Joe is the right person to lead the development of our content assets,” Brown said.

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  • Star turn: Jones featured in New Era NFL ad

    Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones chooses a Cowboys NFL sideline cap over a traditional 10-gallon cowboy hat in one of a bevy of TV ads for New Era, the league’s new on-field cap licensee, debuting this week for the new football season.

    In one of a series of ads from ad agency Brooklyn Brothers, the autocratic NFL owner summons an employee who is wearing a cowboy hat, string tie and oversized belt buckle. “It’s the hat, son,” says Jones, bedecked in a New Era Cowboys cap. “We only wear football caps now.”

    The ads will break on NFL Network before
    Wednesday’s league opener, in which the New York Giants will host the Cowboys atMetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Other ads in the “Laboratory of Headwear Science and Capology” campaign feature Buffalo defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs, New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, and wide receiver Eric Decker of Denver. The majority of New Era’s TV spending is on NFL Network
    and ESPN.

    “We’re targeting the hard-core fans to make sure they know there’s a new official cap for their favorite league and they are made by someone who specializes in headwear,” said Braden Dahl, who heads New Era’s NFL marketing, adding that even before the TV campaign and NFL sidelines serve as powerful selling
    tools, sales of NFL caps have already exceeded projections. With no more Nike-Reebok apparel rivalries on field, the days of Nike players refusing to wear the NFL’s cap of choice are over, except in a few cases, like the Manning brothers’ continued affiliation with Reebok.

    New Era, longtime holder of MLB on-field cap rights, now has exclusive NFL sideline cap rights for the next five seasons.

    “On field, our hope is that the cap is now considered just part of the uniform,” Dahl said. “For consumers, we’re telling the story of a technical cap with a traditional look.”

    To support its new NFL rights, New Era has installed fixtures at NFL team shops and cemented club sponsorships with teams including the Bears, Bills, Cowboys, Packers, Steelers, Giants and Jets, the last two of which are being supported by a new New Era store on the 100 level of MetLife Stadium.

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  • NAPA renewing for full season with MWR

    NAPA last week became the third team sponsor on NASCAR’s highest level in the last year to announce a full-season sponsorship renewal.

    Sources familiar with the brand’s decision said it had agreed to a three-year deal with Michael Waltrip Racing as the primary sponsor for all 36 Sprint Cup races on the No. 56 car. The agreement is valued at $16 million a year.

    MWR was expected to announce the deal and an extension of its contract with driver Martin Truex Jr. during a news conference last Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. NAPA follows Miller Lite and 3M as the third full-season sponsor to retain all 36 races after its current contract ended.

    The number of full-season sponsors dropped from seven to five this year after UPS opted to decrease the number of races it sponsored at Roush Fenway Racing from 36 to fewer than 10 races, and Home Depot sold off 10 of its races to Dollar General on the No. 20 car at Joe Gibbs Racing.

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  • New licensees to bring double-digit sales growth, NFL predicts

    Terry Lefton
    This time of year, NFL prognostications are as common as political stump speeches. Of course, we’re more concerned with sales results here than gridiron performance, not that they aren’t related.

    Buoyed by two new on-field licensees in Nike and New Era that are among the most powerful and creative in sports licensing, NFL consumer products chief Leo Kane is forecasting double-digit growth for what is a very mature licensed product business. That’s not quite like picking Jacksonville or Cleveland to win the next Super Bowl (200-to-1 odds in Vegas), but enough to turn heads.

    “Business is good across the board, and retailers are enthusiastic by our new partners, most of which are experts in their categories,” Kane said.

    For an even loftier goal, Kane says, the long-term objective is “to transform the look of football.”

    “We want people to wear [NFL-licensed apparel] every day of the week,” he said. “The way you do that is providing new styles and ways to express yourself, whether it is an accessory or a hat or scarf. The goal with our licensees is to establish some fashion trends instead of following them.”

    COOLING TREND: Dunkin’ Donuts is teaming with online licensed goods retailer Fanatics to find “Philly’s Coolest Sports Fan,” in a promotion that will be plastered across more than 3.5 million 24-ounce and larger iced drink cups in the area over the next six weeks.

    The new Dunkin’ Donuts-Fanatics promotion will appear on iced drink cups around Philly.
    Prizes via Fanatics, which does e-commerce for all the big league sports sites, include discounts on free beverages at Dunkin’ Donuts, merchandise from Fanatics.com and tickets for area sporting events.

    Marketing support includes dedicated TV, radio, point-of-sale, outdoor, digital and social ads. An associated Facebook promotional extension asks fans to submit a photo or video demonstrating why those depicted are the coolest sports fans in Philly, where there are 550 Dunkin’ Donuts in the metro area. The top 10 are subject to a subsequent vote, of which the winner gets a chartered plane trip for six, plus tickets and hotels to a Philadelphia team away game.

    An interesting sidelight is that this is a promotion that could work in any city, depending on what rights the sponsor brings to the table. Former Versus President Jamie Davis, president of Fanatics since April, said it’s the first handiwork of Fanatics’ ramped-up corporate promotions department.

    Alliance Marketing Partners, Wynnewood, Pa., is the representative for the local Dunkin’ Donuts co-op.

    FLOWER POWER: That “Granddaddy of Them All,” the Rose Bowl, has had an official rose grower for several years now in Passion Growers. Now it has an official rose and flower care company in Miracle-Gro, which has signed a deal that is two years, plus an option, taking it at least through the Rose Bowl’s 100th anniversary in 2014.

    The deal with the Tournament of Roses gives Miracle-Gro rights to the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game intellectual property. The rights had been owned by Bayer. However, media buys in the parade and game are to be determined.

    Sponsorships for Scotts Miracle-Gro had been restricted to Scotts, which is heavily invested in Major League Baseball and NASCAR. However, Tom McLoughlin, vice president of gardens and landscaping, said: “Roses are an important category for us and the more we dug into it, the better fit it seemed, so [negotiations] went pretty quickly. We think it will be a way for us to cultivate new generations of gardeners.”

    Activation, likely to also include Ortho-branded horticultural products, will include a float in the parade, along with local garden refurbishments and retail-specific promotions at important local garden retailers, such as Orchard Supply Hardware.

    Wasserman Media Group represents Scotts Miracle-Gro.

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

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