SBJ/September 10-16, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

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  • ANC Sports buys itself back from equity firm

    Signage and venue services provider ANC Sports has bought itself back from Palladium Equity Partners, a private equity firm that purchased 85 percent of ANC in 2009.

    The new ownership group of ANC, one of largest companies of its kind in sports, is headed by former NBA executive Bill Daugherty, who will hold the largest share and become ANC’s executive chairman.

    Others in the investment team also have sports connections, as the group includes Jerry Cifarelli, ANC founder, president and CEO; former New Jersey Nets owner Alan Aufzien, an original ANC investor; Dave Bialek, who heads ANC Sports Marketing; and Paul Salem, senior managing director of Providence Equity Partners. However, ANC officials stressed that Salem’s investment is personal in nature and not at all tied to Providence Equity.

    Terms of the deal could not be obtained, and it was unknown what Palladium paid for ANC three years ago.
    Founded 15 years ago, ANC has its signage systems at more than 200 North American venues, and has expanded in recent years to provide more sales and marketing offerings.

    Daugherty’s equity investment brings him full circle. The former NBA senior vice president of business development helped convince Cifarelli to launch ANC Sports Enterprises in 1997 and introduced him to former Boston Celtics owner Alan Cohen, who became ANC’s original majority owner.

    “What started as a rotational signage company has grown into a venue technology company,” said Daugherty, who sold Interactive Search Holdings, an amalgam of sites including Iwon.com and excite.com, to Ask Jeeves for $343 million in 2004.

    Jerry Cifarelli launched the company in 1997.
    Photo by: ANC SPORTS
    Daugherty now serves on two other corporate boards and is involved in mentoring high school students on entrepreneurship.

    “ANC’s reputation with teams, leagues and sponsors is stellar, so I see a lot of room for growth,” added Daugherty, who went on to say that he plans to take an active role with the company. “Their technology development has been impressive, and the way they tie everything together with marketing, sales and sponsorship makes ANC a very compelling proposition.”

    With a streamlined ownership group at ANC, Cifarelli sees opportunities to expand the sales, marketing and consulting sides of the business; to increase the full-time employee count from its current 60 people; to expand outside of sports, like a recently completed high-definition video marquee outside of the Caesars Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland; and to expand into other sports. Basketball and baseball venues now account for about 80 percent of ANC’s annual revenue, which is estimated at $60 million.

    “The important thing now is that we have ownership with a long-term commitment and deep roots within the industry,” Cifarelli said.

    Among ANC signage system deals is the massive new video screen and LED fascia signage at the Tennessee Titans’ LP Field, and the new high-def center-hung scoreboard at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, which is big enough that it extends nearly foul line to foul line.

    Palladium, which owns Wise Foods, among other holdings, acquired ANC three years ago and established Celeritas Management as its sports-focused holding company, but that vision never amounted to much beyond the acquisition of the Spanish Béisbol Network.

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  • A-B’s D’Sylva on beer, media rights and marketing strategy

    Money from beer brands sponsoring sports at venues and in media has been so meaningful for so long that some consider beer to be as endemic a category as athletic footwear and sports apparel. Shortly after completing the recent six-year extension of Budweiser’s MLB sponsorship, Anheuser-Busch’s Blaise D’Sylva sat down with SportsBusiness Journal’s Terry Lefton at the MLB Fan Cave in New York to discuss the symbiotic nexus of sports and beer.

    What’s the state of the domestic beer market?

    Blaise D’Sylva said A-B is targeting opportunities with music.
    Photo by: SHANA WITTENWYLER
    D’SYLVA:
    Overall, the domestic beer market has been tough and sales have been relatively flat for a few years. We have had some recent success with some new products, like Bud Light Platinum, which has now topped a million barrels. Bud Light Lime-A-Rita (a ready-made margarita) has also made some noise as we try to recapture some of the young adults who are drinking hard liquor as an alternative to beer consumption.

    Media rights are certainly the healthiest part of the sports economy. As someone who has seen both sides of the equation, are you surprised that rights fees continue to escalate?

    D’SYLVA:
    The good news for us is that we do a lot of multiyear media deals, so we are somewhat insulated there. The rights fees really more immediately hit the consumer first in their cable or satellite bills.

    But brands will ultimately be the ones bearing the brunt of those escalating rights fees, won’t they?

    D’SYLVA:
    As an industry observer, the escalation is more amazing with every new deal. To be fair, sports are still one of the best places to reach our audience. But I think until the consumer says something about the size of their cable or satellite TV bills, it will probably continue. Either that or the affiliate fees will just get so large there will be some protest there.   
     
    It is a time of year when everyone is doing projections and budgeting. Where will A-B spend more marketing dollars next year?

    D’SYLVA:
    About where you would think, which is digital and social in keeping with changing media consumption patterns. Even as we try to figure all that out, we know that TV is not dead. It still works effectively for us. Outside of sports, we are investing heavily in music with our “Made In America” platform. We are putting a lot behind music now, whether it is in sponsorship or in the media space, with things like our exclusive deal with Mark Cuban’s AXS TV. Music and sports are the two biggest passion points, so we look for ways to connect those and how to come with a bigger, better and more relevant message for our target consumers. You look at what we’ve done at the Super Bowls for a few years with the Bud Light Hotel — that’s been all about mixing sports and music.

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  • Camcorder maker Ion drops in on Dew Tour

    Ion Worldwide, a new point-of-view camcorder company, is jumping into the world of action sports, signing a multiyear title deal for the final stop of the 2012 Dew Tour and endorsements with three athletes.

    The deals are designed to help the company chip away at marketplace leader GoPro, which signed skater Ryan Sheckler and other action sports athletes to promote its camera.

    The Dew Tour cut the number of stops this year from seven to three.
    Photo by: WWW.THUMBSUPPHOTO.COM
    Like GoPro, Ion Worldwide’s pocket-sized product, the Ion Air Pro, can be attached to a helmet, snowboard or skateboard and used to record footage of everything from a day on the mountain to a session in the skatepark. It also offers Wi-Fi connectivity so that videos can be instantly uploaded to the Web. The base model costs $229.99.

    The company wants to make a big entrance into the market before Christmas and sees the Dew Tour’s last stop, in Breckenridge, Colo., on Dec. 13-16, as a great way to do that. The event will be known as the Ion Mountain Championships, and Ion will have footage shot with its camera integrated into broadcast coverage on NBC and NBC Sports Network. It also will receive digital ad inventory, on-site activation rights, event signs and 30 ad units in NBC and NBC Sports Network Dew Tour programming in 2012, with additional units in subsequent years.

    Ion’s deal with the Dew Tour is valued at $2 million to $3 million a year. It gives Alli Sports, NBC Universal’s action sports division, its eighth partner of the Dew Tour and closes out all of the commercial inventory in the Dew Tour’s 33 hours of programming.

    “This was the last package we were in the market with,” said Alli Sports President Wade Martin. “We’re truly sold out, at this point, in terms of inventory and total number of partners.”

    Ion is supplementing the sponsorship through deals with freestyle motocross rider Jeremy Stenberg, BMX rider Corey Bohan and surfer Reed McIntosh. Financial terms of the endorsements weren’t available. Each athlete will film and post videos to his own social media outlets and websites using Ion cameras. The company also plans to sign skiers and snowboarders later this year.

    “It’s a statement that we’re making,” said Giovanni Tomaselli, Ion Worldwide’s founder, owner and CEO. “We want to be able to really demonstrate that we have the commitment to this.”

    Ion will promote its ties to the Dew Tour through a retail sweepstakes that will award trips to the Breckenridge Dew Tour event to winners from Japan, Europe and Australia.

    It has partnered with bike manufacturer Mongoose and Camp Woodward, a youth camp for skaters and BMX riders, to demonstrate its cameras on-site at the Dew Tour stop in San Francisco on Oct. 18-21. Kids will be able to use Ion cameras while they ride bikes and skateboards in Mongoose and Woodward demonstration areas. Video editors will help the kids upload their footage, and some of the videos will be posted on a giant TV screen during the event.

    “We want to engage with athletes and get them using the product,” said Braly Joy, Ion’s marketing manager. “We’re focused on what you can do after you capture the images and how you can share it much faster. The athletes are really gravitating to that.”

    Ion is the first new company to sign with the Dew Tour since it overhauled its structure. The series downsized this year from seven events to three. The move, which was wanted by title sponsor Mountain Dew, was designed to allow Alli Sports to make tour stops bigger and better. The tour also reduced its total number of sponsors from 20 to 12.

    The first event, held in Ocean City, Md., last month, drew 93,000 people, up from 73,000 in 2011. The next stop will take place near San Francisco’s city hall.

    Ion is working with Flow Sports of San Clemente, Calif., on its brand marketing and distribution. It also works with BWP Group, a European ad agency, and Chainsaw Productions, a California-based video production group.

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