SBJ/October 1-7, 2012/In Depth

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  • Well-groomed messaging

    About the time end-zone dancing led Pro Bowlers to “Dancing with the Stars,” the athlete endorsement game mushroomed, fueled in no small part by soaring demand for male grooming products.

    What’s striking is less the novelty of athletes pitching products beyond their immediate sphere of influence (sneakers, sports drinks and equipment) than the proliferation of tie-ins to products of all kind.

    To be sure, Gillette forged its ties with Major League Baseball in the middle of the 20th century, with little difference between Derek Jeter and Roger Federer demonstrating the latest blades and long-ago endorsements by the likes of Honus Wagner, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. What has changed is Gillette, now part of Procter & Gamble, uses its sports ties to pitch deodorant, face creams and more.

    And the rise of social media has made it possible for athletes and consumers to connect on a more personal level, which further bolsters their ability to hawk personal products and even talk fashion.

    Doug Flutie is among the sports personalities who have appeared in "Journey to Comfort" vignettes for Dove.
    Anyone watching football this season has likely seen the Dove-sponsored “Journey to Comfort” vignettes of former quarterbacks Doug Flutie and John Elway. Part of a continuing series based on a soft sell of men’s skin care, Flutie and Elway, like previous endorsers such as Kirk Herbstreit, Shaquille O’Neal and Albert Pujols, tell stories about their personal lives and never mention Dove products.

    Instead, each spot closes with the tag line, “My name is … and I am definitely comfortable in my own skin.” Translation: Hey, every guy, even a tough athlete, can laugh at himself and, yes, even think about moisturizer.

    A recent study by The NPD Group provides an easy answer for those wondering why Joe Mauer and Troy Polamalu can’t stop jawing about dandruff control and why Matthew Stafford sought the guidance of retired footballers Steve Young and Jerry Rice for his fashion sense.

    NPD, in a study released in February, found that 90 percent of men ages 18 and up use some type of grooming product, ranging from facial and body skincare to hair gels and colognes. Sales of skincare products for guys grew by 11 percent in 2011 compared with the previous year.

    Retailers have created more shelf space for men’s grooming products, similar to a recent explosion in men shopping for
    clothes in a trendier, more frequent manner compared with previous generations. Thus, Tom Brady swaps his cleats for a pair of Uggs while Dan Marino puts a male spin on bikini-season worries by pitching Nutrisystem. And, yes, those images of Joe Torre, Terry Francona and Phil Simms chuckling over a cup of Bigelow Tea were intentional, not to be mistaken for a “Saturday Night Live” parody.

    “Personal care and grooming, these categories are exploding for men,” said Rob Candelino, vice president of Unilever Skin-care, which includes the Dove Men+Care line. “Ten years ago, we didn’t have body washes [for men]. There is a huge opportunity to talk about these products.”

    And, Candelino adds, sports sell, especially for guys. But, he and others note, the tone and the approach are a bit different.

    Dove’s campaign goes out of its way to avoid a hard sell, something company executives say would ring hollow. Instead, the ads aim to show notable athletes as genuine, confident people who also have the same roles as their target customers: fathers, sons, husbands.

    Establishing comfort with the notion of buying skin lotion, or shopping for form as well as function in a wardrobe, becomes much easier with an influential athlete doing the talking, companies say. And, if the pitch works, the chances increase for keeping a customer for years to come.

    Clothing company PVH, which includes the Van Heusen line of shirts and ties, signed Stafford, the 24-year-old up-and-
    Quarterback Matthew Stafford endorses Van Heusen's line of shirts and ties.
    coming quarterback for the Detroit Lions, as a spokesman this year. He joins retired San Francisco 49ers stars Rice and Young, neatly tying together the company’s target customer (a 26-year-old young professional) with its average buyer (a 39-year-old established in his career path).

    Ads featuring the football players include online elements such as a “playbook” offering fashion tips on how to layer sweaters and shirts, how to pair clothing items and how to have a more stylish look at the office and on the town. Sports drive the company’s advertising now, a shift from several years ago when 90 percent went to fashion magazines.

    Mike Kelly, PVH executive vice president of marketing, said athletes are a natural if a company wants men to listen to its message.

    The idea for the football-themed campaign blossomed as Kelly and his wife sat at a W Hotel in Miami and noticed a nightclub scene divided between women dressed to the nines and men dressed to mow lawns.

    “The men were like schlubs, jeans and T-shirts,” Kelly said. “It was like they had forgotten to show up for the game. My wife and I talked about how guys needed to get snapped up, like ‘Hard Knocks’ and training camp” for fashion.

    Kelly, echoing other experts, said the advent of social media and endless cross-pollination with entertainment and fashion, heightens the interest in athletes.

    Rice, the Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver, may be better known these days for his stint on “Dancing with the Stars” than for catching Super Bowl passes from Joe Montana. Hines Ward, Donald Driver, Warren Sapp, Emmitt Smith and Kurt Warner have also tapped their toes on the show before millions of viewers who may have been casual NFL fans, at best. Such forays bring a broader audience and make the athletes accessible in a way they never were on the field. Social media, “Dancing” and other reality shows enhance the effect.

    “There’s crossover appeal,” said Jonathan Norman, senior director for client strategy at GMR Marketing, a frequent adviser to brands. “It keeps them relevant outside of the season.”

    More and more, companies consider that kind of reach not just relevant, but essential. A few years ago, social media “used to be nice to have,” said Greg Goldring, director of marketing at Platinum Rye Entertainment, which works with P&G, among other companies. “Now it’s a must-have.”

    The constant chatter between celebrity and fan creates a relationship that didn’t exist five or 10 years ago, experts say. And, in its best form, tweets and cameos show athletes in a new light, humorous or humble, or just interested in life beyond the playing field.

    Agents say companies routinely ask how many followers an athlete has on Twitter and how many likes on Facebook. Endorsement talks almost always include a social media component, but athletes and agents want to be sure to avoid clumsy sales pitches.

    “It’s got to be more creative than, ‘I just rolled out of bed, boy do I like these Pringles,’” said Lowell Taub, head of sports endorsements at CAA. “You have to make it engaging to the fan rather than a blatant, boring plug.”

    Erik Spanberg writes for the Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.


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  • Athletes tie endorsements to equity stakes in upstart companies

    More athletes are seeking a cut of what they’re selling, in some cases signing endorsement deals that may sacrifice in the short term but offer the chance for larger payouts later.

    “The one trend that I’ve seen is athletes’ willingness to take on a bit more risk and potentially forgo some of the cash in a deal, depending on if there is stock available or a startup that has private shares,” said Lowell Taub, head of endorsements at CAA Sports. “I would call it the 50 Cent phenomenon.”

    The rapper famously negotiated an equity stake in Glaceau’s Vitaminwater brand as part of an endorsement deal and then reaped millions when Coke bought the company for $4 billion in 2007. Author Dan Charnas estimated the rapper’s take to be in the range of $60 million to $100 million. Another investor in Vitaminwater — New York Mets third baseman David Wright — had a much smaller slice of the company but also netted a healthy payout as a result of the Coca-Cola deal.

    David Wright is among the athletes who hold an equity share in Mission Athletecare, a maker of skin protection products.
    Wright didn’t stop at Vitaminwater. He, Sergio Garcia, Dwyane Wade, Mia Hamm and Serena Williams are among 20 athletes with an equity share in Mission Athletecare. The New York venture works with notable pros to develop and promote a range of products aimed at skin protection, from chapped lips to sun block. After three full years in business, the company has its products in 20,000 stores across the country.

    With or without equity, an athlete and a company can tout the authentic nature of product collaborations, and help build lasting legacies for athletes that can pay off well beyond their playing years.

    Maria Sharapova, like the Williams sisters before her, delved into fashion with a designing role that has included launching a line of casual shoes with Cole Haan. Earlier this year, David Beckham, in partnership with clothing chain H&M, released nine styles of underwear carried in the retailer’s 1,800 stores.

    Tony Hawk and Shaun White, X Games heroes past and present, have taken aggressive approaches, putting their names on clothing, video games and, in White’s case, even chewing gum. Target works with White on boys and young men’s clothing lines.

    “The transition between an athlete with an endorsement and an athlete with an apparel line should be natural,” said Dan Griffis, Target director of strategic partnerships, lifestyle marketing and events. “We don’t have a formula.”

    Griffis said the company wants to avoid haggling over contracts and to focus more on a constant conversation about working together with White and other athletes.

    “The athletes get it,” said Mission founder Josh Shaw. “They understand, ‘I can move the needle for your company.’ And they say, ‘My fans can see through an endorsement when I just take a check.’”

    Erik Spanberg writes for the Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.

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  • Activation highlights and trends in sponsorship

    As a lead-in to this week’s IMG Sports Marketing Symposium in New York City, we asked panelists scheduled for the event to highlight activations that caught their eye and to weigh in on the trends they’re watching. Here are highlights of what they had to say to those and other questions.

    What sponsorship executions, outside of your own firm or organization, have you admired in the last year?

    “Under Armour and the draft combine. It pains me, but very well done. Perfect fit for them and just great top-to-bottom

    Photo by: Getty Images
    integration. Red Bull did a great event in Boston. [They] brought in cliff divers to jump off an art museum into the harbor. They do a lot of cool things that shows out-of-the-box thinking. They also do a lot with music. I thought Fiat did some cool work around the Super Bowl and then also [with the] Grammys sponsorship and integration with J Lo. I think Dunkin’ Donuts is more conventional but does a very good job with understanding ‘all politics is local’ and connecting with local teams. … I still like Allstate and what it does with college football. Buying the nets by the goal posts is brilliant.”
    — Tom Shine
    Senior VP, sports and entertainment, Reebok


    “I think FedEx and their relationship with the PGA and the FedEx Cup is fantastic. They supplement a big media position with integration into the property, and the Cup is almost like a fifth major and gets so much play.”
    — Matt Mirchin,
    Senior VP, global sports marketing, Under Armour


    “Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is the sponsorship that I am impressed with. The event has such influence on all things fashion, pop culture, style and brand marketing. It attracts such a range of sponsors, from cereal bars to spirits. Everyone wants to tap into the art, fanfare and buzz that Fashion Week creates in New York City every year.”
    — Beth Hirschhorn
    EVP, global brand, marketing and communications, MetLife


    “P&G Olympic platform (Official Sponsor of Moms). Leveraging a very powerful strategic insight, P&G broke through the Olympic clutter to tap into the buying power of its most valuable target with an emotional connection efficiently and consistently activated across its portfolio of brands.”
    — Todd Fischer
    Manager, marketing communications, State Farm


    “Google Glass and Fashion. The sheer return on interest from a media standpoint was staggering.”
    — Mark Dowley
    Partner, DDCD & Partners


    “We saw a lot of great partnerships unfold during the Olympic Games. I was impressed with AT&T, using athlete endorsement and branded content to set the stage for the launch of their ‘New Possibilities’ campaign. P&G definitely amplified their ‘Thank You, Moms’ campaign through the increased use of social media. But a clear winner from my perspective is Chobani. With a strategic approach, they connected and elevated their brand via the Olympic movement; they made an arrival to the global stage while managing to stay true to their small company heritage.”
    — Andrew Judelson
    Executive VP, sales and partnership marketing, WWE


    “Vice is arguably the leading youth media company in North America. Vice recently built a robust branded channel for Intel called The Creators Project. In mining the world of arts and culture, this channel sends a very strong message about Intel’s values and their brand promise. Authentic content trumps advertising almost every time.”
    — Howard Handler
    CMO, Major League Soccer


    “State Farm did a great job executing their sponsorship of the All-Star Game’s Home Run Derby. They take an ownership position, activate on-site and take the promotion online and outside of the host city. It also has a cause tie-in — all key elements we see in our research for driving high ROI.”
    — AJ Maestas
    President, Navigate Research




    The biggest trend in sponsorship activation that you are focused on is …

    “Over activation. Companies are spending too much money to reach too few people.”
    — Mark Dowley
    Partner, DDCD & Partners


    “Making sure we use our resources to support key growth initiatives and get full activation. Balance between assets and activation.”
    — Matt Mirchin
    Senior VP, global sports branding marketing, Under Armour

    “The creation of second- and third-screen applications that enhance the fan experience while deeply integrating partner brands within our environment. We have recently launched a new platform called Raw Active that enables a two-way conversation with fans, which plays out, in real time, in our live TV programming. It leverages fans’ existing involvement with a variety of social media tools, from Facebook to social video provider Tout, and provides sponsors an opportunity to truly engage with our … fans.”
    — Andrew Judelson
    Executive VP, sales and partnership marketing, WWE


    “Leveraging new technology and data to create meaningful, personalized connections with scale across mediums. The industry has been accustomed to ad buys that provide scale but little personalization, or experiential marketing with personal connections but limited scale. However, new technology leveraging consumer information across mobile, WebTV, social media, etc., may help bridge the gap and provide brands and consumers with richer experiences.”
    — Todd Fischer
    Manager, marketing communications, State Farm


    “The trend right now is how the use of mobile technology and social media have moved from the bottom to the top of the activation mix. It’s not just about eyeballs on signs any longer, and mobile and social are providing us ways to more deeply engage with fans to deliver a memorable brand experience. And, we’re able to engage fans regardless of whether they’re in the stadium at game time, or literally anywhere else on the planet.”
    — Beth Hirschhorn
    EVP, global brand, marketing and communications, MetLife


    “Significantly improving the measurement and accountability of sponsorship investments so that they can be as effective as possible. We’re working on a new initiative, called Precision Market Insights, that will utilize Verizon Wireless’ network data to help us and others understand and engage sports and entertainment venue audiences on a previously unreachable level, well beyond just purchased ticket information.”
    — Tami Erwin
    CMO, Verizon Wireless


    “The use of rights and marks in social and new media.”
    — AJ Maestas
    President, Navigate Research


    “Activation. Companies know how to acquire assets, but have no idea how to activate, and most never get activated.”
    — Tom Shine
    Senior VP, sports and entertainment, Reebok




    What is the most valuable part of your current package of sponsorship rights?

    “Unique and ownable inventory secured to address a specific business opportunity. Differentiation is key in such a cluttered category. Marketing partnerships and corresponding inventory are only as valuable as the business opportunities they are intended to address.”
    — Todd Fischer
    Manager, marketing communications, State Farm




    What piece of sponsorship inventory are you most interested in developing?


    “We’re interested in developing content that consumers deem valuable and showcases the full power of Verizon’s 4G LTE network. Consumers can find content in many places today, so it’s imperative that we deliver a superior experience through what’s offered and how it’s consumed on our … network.”
    — Tami Erwin
    CMO, Verizon Wireless


    Print | Tags: In-Depth, Marketing and Sponsorship
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