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

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  • Comcast-Spectacor: Revenue up 40 percent at Front Row since arrival of Lencheski

    With NHL games canceled through mid-December, NHL revenue is absent at Philadelphia Flyers parent company Comcast-Spectacor. However, a year after installing new leadership at its Front Row Marketing sales, analytics and corporate consulting unit, things are going swimmingly.

    Luukko
    Lencheski
    Revenue is up 40 percent since industry veteran Chris Lencheski was installed as Front Row’s president by Comcast-Spectator President and COO Peter Luukko last October. Front Row is doing business in new areas like motorsports, where it is now the sales agency for Pocono Raceway, and in European soccer, where it recently signed EPL club Norwich City for sales and consulting, and the French Super Cup match between Ligue 1 champion Montpellier and French Cup winner Lyon at Red Bull Stadium in July. For that match, Comcast and Front Row did the TV deal, handled TV production, and sold tickets and sponsorships. The event was shown on NBC Sports Group regional sports networks.

    The success of the Xfinity Live! restaurant/sports bar complex next to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia led to a broader sales relationship with developer The Cordish Cos. Front Row also signed to consult on naming rights for a venue that will host the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

    “The vision here was to expand into new areas, and a year later, I can say we can and we are into areas like soccer, motorsports and growing our international business,” said Luukko, who first knew Lencheski as a Flyers season-ticket holder. “We’re a company that has promoted from within, just as we have generally built our businesses, rather than acquired them. But Chris has that sense of urgency that comes from running your own business, where if you aren’t selling, you aren’t eating.”

    Other wins over the past year include representation for what is now the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Front Row is a finalist in one of the most closely watched agency shootouts of the year — the bid for West Virginia’s media and marketing rights. An agreement to sell naming rights at Miami of Ohio is intriguing, too, since the school is otherwise represented by IMG.

    “We’ve raised our profile,” Lencheski said, “but there’s still a lot of work to do.”

    Helping with that work will be two well-connected sales executives brought in recently — Sergio del Prado, who is now a regional vice president based in Los Angeles, and Lee Stacey, the unit’s new senior vice president of national sales.

    While Front Row has some synergies with its closest corporate cousins, like venue management firm Global Spectrum, the ultimate potential is synergy across more distant NBC Universal properties, like selling for Universal theme parks or creating golf tournaments in which Golf Channel held a principal role.

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  • NASCAR’s sponsor revenue expected to dip

    NASCAR’s total sponsorship revenue is expected to drop slightly in 2013 as marketers continue to tighten their budgets and some sponsors depart the sport.

    The sanctioning body had 13 sponsors up for renewal in 2012 and cemented extensions with seven of them: Sprint, Goodyear, MillerCoors, COPD, Featherlite, Chevrolet and Ford. It is still in discussions with Mobil 1, Procter & Gamble, DirecTV and USG, the official building products provider. Two sponsors, Office Depot and Dodge, decided to end their partnerships after the 2012 season.

    Top series naming-rights sponsor Sprint is among seven partners who have renewed.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    NASCAR mitigated the loss of Dodge and Office Depot by signing three new deals to its NASCAR Green platform. It brought on Creative Recycling, a company that recycles electronics; Green Earth Technology, which makes motor and engine oils; and New Holland Agriculture, a farm equipment manufacturer.

    But those deals weren’t enough to increase NASCAR’s total sponsorship revenue going into next year. It will be down by a single-digit percentage for the second consecutive year.

    NASCAR Sponsors

    Renewals:
    Sprint
    Goodyear
    MillerCoors
    COPD
    Chevrolet
    Ford
    Featherlite

    Didn’t renew:
    Office Depot
    Dodge

    Pending renewals:
    Mobil 1
    Procter & Gamble
    USG
    DirecTV

    “I wouldn’t attribute it to a single sponsorship” said Jim O’Connell, NASCAR’s chief sales officer. “It’s a reflection of the fact that marketing budgets are a lot tighter.”

    O’Connell said that in some cases NASCAR decreased the cost of a sponsorship in exchange for an increase in activation across the sport or against one of the sport’s key marketing initiatives and components of its five-year industry action plan, designed to bolster youth and multicultural interest.

    “We want to hold to a rate card where we can, but support of our industry action plan is very important,” O’Connell said.

    MillerCoors was one brand that committed to supporting those initiatives during its negotiations with NASCAR. The company last February announced a five-year extension with NASCAR that will see the Coors Light brand remain the sport’s official beer.

    “We’re in this for the long term,” said Adam Dettman, director of sports and entertainment marketing for MillerCoors. “We want them to be successful, as well. Youth appeal and multicultural is important. It’s one of those things we’re all going to have to work collectively on.”

    In addition to enlisting sponsors who will support its industry-action initiatives, NASCAR has focused on expanding its portfolio of green partners and increasing the number of sponsors that are part of its NASCAR Green program. The sponsors get rights to a NASCAR Green logo and can use their relationship with the program to promote their environmentally friendly initiatives.

    O’Connell said the new platform has helped boost the sport’s bottom line at a time when traditional categories such as airline and hotel sponsorships remain difficult to sell.

    “We have a really good story on the green side,” O’Connell said. “It all started with Growth Energy. That set the stage for us, and we’ve been able to attract sponsors who are comfortable showcasing their products and technology in the sport.”

    NASCAR this year also signed a value-in-kind deal with HP. The technology company is providing the infrastructure for the sanctioning body’s new media engagement center, which will monitor, interact with and respond to social and traditional media.

    O’Connell said the deal doesn’t preclude NASCAR from going after other technology companies and added that the sanctioning body remains focused on filling the technology category. “With green, we started with a bang,” O’Connell said. “Technology will be a slow build.”

    Next year will be a light year for renewals, with only Toyota and Safety-Kleen up for renewal. New categories NASCAR hopes to fill include consumer electronics, quick-service restaurant, spirits and office supplies.

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  • Pacquiao cracks celebrity lineup for nuts

    Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

    The 15-second TV spot opens with boxer Manny Pacquiao rhythmically peppering a green speed bag to music. When he unleashes a hard left hand, the bag explodes, spraying hundreds of pistachio nuts into the air. “Manny Pacquiao does it,” the narrator says seconds before impact, “with a knockout punch.”

    Pacquiao joins Snoop, Snooki and the Simpsons in a quirky stable of pop culture figures to appear in Wonderful Pistachios’ 3-year-old “Get Crackin’” ad campaign. The fighter’s spot debuts tonight during “Monday Night Football,” then airs on “Late Show with David Letterman” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

    Wonderful Pistachios — a brand of California-based Paramount Farms — also will sponsor Pacquiao’s HBO pay-per-view fight against Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday night, signing on
     
    Manny Pacquiao’s ad for Wonderful Pistachios debuts tonight during “Monday Night Football.” Wonderful also is one of six sponsors for the boxer’s Saturday PPV fight.
    with Top Rank in a deal that includes the Get Crackin’ slogan on the ring mat and on Pacquiao’s trunks, signs at the weigh-in, and pistachio sampling at the MGM Grand Arena on fight night.

    The one-year endorsement deal will pay Pacquiao in the mid-six figures, according to a sports marketing source. Paramount Farms executives would not discuss financial terms.

    This is Pacquiao’s third deal from outside the usual lineup of brands that cast athletes in commercials. He appeared in a national spot for Hewlett-Packard’s tablet computer 18 months ago and in Hennessy’s “What’s Your Wild Rabbit” campaign earlier this year. Hennessy has renewed Pacquiao for 2013.

    “The Get Crackin’ campaign is one of those places that you should want to be right now if you’re in the sports world,” said Lucia McKelvey, Pacquiao’s deal agent at boxing promoter Top Rank. “It’s fun. It’s great, visually. And they’ll have a huge media buy. It’s a great fit for Manny.”

    Paramount Farms will spend about $40 million behind at least a dozen Get Crackin’ spots it will air this season, company executives said. It has spent about $130 million on ad buys since launching the campaign late in 2009.

    The deal with Pacquiao began percolating shortly after the London Olympics, where Paramount Farms sponsored boxer Jose Ramirez, who is from Avenal, Calif., about 30 miles from the company’s pistachio processing plant in the San Joaquin Valley. Ramirez signed with Top Rank early last month and will make his debut on the undercard of Saturday’s fight. He, too, will wear the Get Crackin’ slogan on his trunks.

    “We were kicking around ideas and thought it’d be great to have an ad that leveraged the physical, fun nature of boxing,” said Marc Seguin, vice president of marketing for Paramount Farms. “We knew boxing would work well. The next question was ‘Who is topical that has social currency and will reach a lot of folks?’ It wasn’t a hugely complicated equation.”

    The Get Crackin’ campaign features what the brand calls “P-list” celebrities and other characters cracking open pistachios in creative ways. Bart Simpson slingshots them off Homer. Vincent Pastore of “The Sopranos” slams one open by banging a man’s forehead into a table. YouTube sensation Keyboard Cat taps one open on its piano keys.

    It was a natural progression to a Pacquiao punch.

    Pacquiao shot the commercial early last month in Los Angeles. Since then, Wonderful’s sweet chili-flavored pistachios have been a fixture at his training camp.

    Wonderful joins a roster of six sponsors on the Pacquiao-Marquez fight: Tecate, Mexican wireless provider Telcel, Philippine wireless provider Smart, the Cinemax series “Banshee” and the Weinstein Co./Columbia Pictures film “Django.”

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  • Stanley uses Liverpool FC as tool to connect

    Stanley Black & Decker is looking to Liverpool FC for global activation efforts.

    The company next month is launching its second “unique experience” contest with the English Premier League franchise. The Stanley Global Striker Challenge will be open to trade professionals and consumers worldwide through point-of-purchase and online sweepstakes entries. The contest will debut in 12 European countries but with plans to extend to the United States, Thailand, Canada and Brazil, among other countries, by the spring.

    A 13-country sweepstakes this fall brought in winners to train at Liverpool’s academy, as well as meet club players and see a game.
    Photo by: LIVERPOOL FC
    Twenty-five winners subsequently will be outfitted in the uniforms of their national teams and train at Liverpool’s academy. At the end of the two-day training, the participants will square off in a penalty kick contest — with two winners from there competing at halftime of a Liverpool match against the club’s top academy goalkeepers.

    It won’t be the first time Stanley Black & Decker has built a contest around Liverpool. In October, the company hosted 32 tradesmen from around the globe to a weekend with Liverpool at Anfield, the team’s stadium.

    A global audience is vital to Stanley Black & Decker, which is based in the United States but sells products in more than 100 countries. Earle Smola, director of corporate brand design and sponsorships, said the company generates about half its annual revenue outside the United States. Stanley Black & Decker also has sponsorship agreements overseas with professional bull riding in Brazil and with Fulham of the EPL, but it does not have plans yet to host experience sweepstakes with those organizations similar to those it is offering with Liverpool.

    The company has run engagement promotions with MLB, Professional Bull Riders and NASCAR — with the winners driving on the racetrack at Walt Disney World and attending the Daytona 500 — but they were all based domestically.

    “This is the first program that we’ve been able to leverage with great success globally,” Smola said.

    The participants in this fall’s effort were chosen from more than 15,000 entries of a point-of-purchase and online sweepstakes held during the summer. The contest was run in 13 countries with at least one winner selected from each. Those winners received training at the academy, met current and former Liverpool players, and watched the club’s 0-0 draw with Stoke City.

    The global tools company is in the first year of a three-year contract with Liverpool FC that runs through the 2014-15 EPL season. Stanley Black & Decker is the official tools and security partner of the club and receives, among other deal points, pitch-side LED advertising at Anfield, player image rights, tickets to the club’s matches home and away, and the ability to present “unique experience” contests.

    “Liverpool was founded in 1892 and has over 200 fan clubs in over 40 countries,” Smola said. “Our company has been around for almost 170 years. We felt that Liverpool’s rich history would be a perfect fit with our brands.”

    The creative for the Liverpool efforts was developed through McCann in Birmingham, England, with the promotional execution facilitated by Retail Sports Marketing in Charlotte.

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  • A-B makes Bud Light the key to unlocking in-venue content

    Terry Lefton
    Athletic footwear and “tools of the trade” like balls and bats notwithstanding, we’ve long opined that beer is actually the most endemic sports sponsor. Add the non-exclusive nature of some, but not all, beer sponsorships, and we believe we’re safe in positing that Anheuser-Busch has the broadest commercial footprint across professional sports venues in America.

    So when we heard about A-B testing new technology to leverage those relationships with stadiums that house the NFL, we were intrigued. When we discovered it involves proprietary in-stadium content, our news Geiger counter started ticking as if we were in Chernobyl. Enhancing the in-stadium experience tops the to-do list of every team and league marketer — except perhaps those at the NHL.

       
    The test program with the Patriots and Dolphins offers proprietary content to stadium-goers.
    So at the risk of burying the lede: Anheuser-Busch is testing a system at the home fields of the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins through which consumers can access proprietary NFL content on smartphones after downloading an app. Said content includes history features on the teams, trivia contests, all-access stadium tours, and the ability to integrate your own photo with those of team mascots and cheerleaders. But that content can’t be “unlocked” until consumers use their phones to scan a Bud Light image on stadium signage or from collateral given to fans entering the game.
     
    A-B uses scoreboard announcements, team website ads and other assets gained through its team deals to drive awareness of the program.

    Paragon Marketing conceived the concept for A-B and is developing the content and managing the relationship with technology provider Blippar, which labels the system “augmented reality.” Blaise D’Sylva, A-B vice president of media, sports and entertainment marketing, calls it an intriguing test.

    “We’ve been looking for better ways to engage fans in stadiums and better leverage our NFL connections with them,” said D’Sylva, who added that A-B also has tested the Blippar system at retail, using NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick at Wal-Mart stores in the Southeast.

    A-B is testing the in-stadium tech play for a season at the Patriots’ and Dolphins’ home fields before deciding if it makes sense to install it elsewhere within its massive portfolio of sports properties. Key metrics being considered are the number of app downloads and the amount of time spent with the content, which we’re told has impressive stickiness thus far. Those factors will be weighed against the combined costs of the technology and producing the content.

    For now, this program is at NFL venues only. However, given A-B’s vast real estate within MLB venues, “there could be even more of a play there, while our NFL experience with this has been mostly pregame,” D’Sylva said.

    Like so much digital marketing, the rules are different. This is less of a “buy beer” message and more about driving home an association — in this case, A-B’s pricey NFL league rights, along with its 28 team deals and 11 exclusive NFL relationships.

    “Everyone is trying to find a way to make that second screen pay off,” D’Sylva said. “This is our play and it’s being tested against some of the biggest NFL fans and some of our most important consumers.”
     
    > SEASONAL GREETING: Retailer Finish Line, Coke’s Powerade isotonic, Dodge Ram Trucks, Ketel One Vodka and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish are lead sponsors with multiplatform buys for Sports Illustrated’s 2012 Sportsman of the Year award, to be announced today and celebrated at a Wednesday fete in New York City.

    SI hooked Pepperidge Farm’s Goldfish brand.
    “Franchises like Swimsuit and Sportsman have helped us grow our multiplatform side, and Sportsman really is a stake in the ground for the SI brand,” said Mark Ford, Time Inc. executive vice president and sports group president.

    Sportsman of the Year sponsor activation includes Powerade’s Underdog high school football platform, which included 10 webisodes on SI.com; Dodge having a vehicle on site at the Sportsman of the Year party; a 150,000-run custom publication highlighting “Enduring Sportsmen” as a December gift-with-purchase for Finish Line customers spending more than $75; and Goldfish staging a Sportskid of the Year contest with SI Kids.

    As of press time, ad pages for the planned 156-page Sportsman of the Year issue, which has a cover date of Dec. 10, were at 57, an increase of four from last year and the most since 2008. Does that mean the recession is a distant memory?

    “The recovery is ongoing,” Ford said. “On the print side [where 2012 looks to be flat from 2011], we are still under demands from marketers for more accountability. [Category-wise], domestic auto advertising is still lagging, but our digital is up, our experiential is way up [175 percent increase over 2011]. So, we look at the total pie and feel pretty good.”

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

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