SBJ/Sept. 23-29, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

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  • Amateur Athletic Union signs BeRecruited as official partner

    Online recruiting destination BeRecruited has signed a multiyear partnership with the Amateur Athletic Union to be the organization’s official recruiting partner, the second major deal for San Francisco-based BeRecruited in less than three months.

    BeRecruited will be integrated into registration for AAU events, appear on AAU Web pages, and be a recommended source of recruiting advice for AAU coaches, athletes and parents.

    Financial terms were not disclosed, but the pact is based in part on a commission-based structure in which BeRecruited will pay AAU for each new member registering on the site as a result of AAU programs. The company seeks to connect non-elite high school athletes with college coaches and help them seek out athletic scholarships and financial aid.

    BeRecruited earlier in July signed a similar deal with IMG Academy, IMG’s Florida-based development and training complex. BeRecruited’s registrant base of nearly 2 million people is about twice the level of two years ago.

    “AAU has a long and proud history, and a particularly strong position in basketball and volleyball. This is another important platform we think will be very beneficial in driving increased registration and usage,” said Vishwas Prabhakara, BeRecruited chief executive.

    The company, meanwhile, is due to release its first mobile application in the next several weeks.

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  • Champions Tour renews seven title sponsors, may expand schedule

    The Champions Tour has renewed seven out of eight title sponsors this year and could expand its schedule for the second straight season.

    The latest renewal for the 50-and-over tour came from Nature Valley, title sponsor of this week’s First Tee Open at Pebble Beach. Nature Valley also has extended its official marketing partnership with the PGA Tour through the 2016 season.

    That deal caps off a run of renewals that has the Champions Tour positioned to grow in coming years.

    “It’s unique to have this many renewals,” said Mike Stevens, president of the Champions Tour. “You typically see sponsors move around a bit, but we’re fortunate that we’ve retained sponsors and several have been with us quite some time.”

    Title sponsorships on the Champions Tour aren’t structured all that differently than those on the PGA Tour, except they cost less and don’t generate the same amount of exposure. Champions Tour title sponsorships cost from $2 million to $3 million a year, and more for those deals that also include an official marketing partnership with the PGA Tour.

    Each deal comes with three days of coverage on Golf Channel, with branding, hospitality, advertising and pro-am spots. Sponsors can spin off half of their ad units into other Champions Tour events on Golf Channel during the rest of the year.

    The tour also has upgraded some of its amenities, such as adding LED scoreboards at each event.

    That has helped the tour maintain a strong roster of longtime sponsors.

    Ace Group, a Champions Tour sponsor since 1999, just extended its Naples, Fla., event sponsorship through 2017.

    Allianz, a title sponsor since 2001, recently extended its deal at Boca Raton, Fla., through 2017.

    Constellation Energy (2003), Boeing (2005) and Mitsubishi (2009) also have renewed their deals — Constellation through 2017, while Boeing and Mitsubishi run through 2016. C Spire Wireless also has a new deal that will go through 2016.

    The tour’s only swing-and-miss came with Liberty Mutual, which elected not to renew after a lengthy run with the Legends of Golf. Toshiba, a 19-year sponsor of the Newport Beach, Calif., tournament, and the tour’s longest-running title sponsor, is in talks to extend as well.

    With that kind of stability, Stevens said he’s looking into one or two new markets for 2014 and 2015. Next year’s schedule is due out around early November. The tour featured 26 events on its 2013 schedule, up two tournaments from 2012.

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  • NASCAR reaching out to agencies, potential sponsors to replace Nationwide at No. 2 series

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

    NASCAR last week began searching for a new title sponsor for its No. 2 series after Nationwide Insurance announced it plans to exit its title sponsorship following the 2014 season.

    The sport has until late next year to find a replacement sponsor.

    The title sponsorship sale will be led by NASCAR Chief Sales Officer Jim O’Connell, who sold the Nationwide deal in 2007 and Camping World’s title sponsorship of the truck series in 2008. He said last week that NASCAR would begin reaching out to sports marketing and media agencies and potential sponsors immediately. He added that NASCAR will work with its 2015 broadcast partners, Fox and NBC, on the sales effort.

    The pitch will focus on the opportunity to raise national brand awareness by owning the second-most-popular motorsports series based on viewership. Through 25 races this year, the Nationwide Series was averaging 1.8 million viewers per event, according to Nielsen, and the insurer received $90 million in media exposure, according to Repucom. The new sponsor would follow Busch and Nationwide as only the third title sponsor of the series.

    “There’s been a lot of stability in this,” O’Connell said. “It works for companies. Entitlement takes a big investment both financially and in terms of activation, but I’m confident we’ll find a third partner who has the same type of commitment and the same type of success.”

    O’Connell declined to say what price tag NASCAR plans to put on the title sponsorship. NASCAR reportedly sought $30 million annually the last time it sold title sponsorship rights in 2007. That would have represented a huge increase over the $8.5 million that Busch paid. But Nationwide cut a deal valued at $8 million to $10 million a year for its title sponsorship.

    Nationwide committed to spend an additional $5 million in media on ESPN, and the insurer’s track deals and activation spending pushed its total investment above $20 million annually.

    “They’re going to shoot high [with the price] but give themselves wiggle room, and it will depend on what category they look at as to what they’ll get in terms of price,” said Andrew Campagnone, senior managing partner at Sports Marketing Consultants, a motorsports sales and marketing agency. “You’d want to approach this in increments and make sure you get at least a three-year deal because it takes two years to get going in the sport. They’ll need to get creative. There’s a ton of value there, but it’s not Sprint Cup.”

    NASCAR is expected to go back to some of the brands that looked at the title sponsorship of the Nationwide Series when it was last available in 2007. Sports executives held discussions with Dunkin’ Donuts, AutoZone, KFC and others. Subway was close to finalizing a deal but changed its mind after re-evaluating the opportunity late in negotiations.

    Evaluating the title sponsorship this time will be a different proposition than it was in 2007. Back then, companies were evaluating a title sponsorship with regular live coverage on ESPN, one of the most broadly distributed cable networks and an effective promoter of sports. But in 2015, NASCAR’s secondary series will shift to Fox Sports 1, a new network, and NBC Sports Network, which is in 20 million fewer homes than ESPN.

    NASCAR also changed the competition rules. Cup drivers no longer can win the series championship, and fewer Cup drivers have participated in the secondary series. As a result, it’s become a testing ground for up-and-coming, young drivers who are less recognizable among casual NASCAR fans.

    “You have to look at the landscape from competition to media to future stars to the health of the teams in the series,” said Mike Boykin, GMR Marketing’s executive vice president of sports marketing. “It’s a different opportunity and the marketplace is different. My guess is it will be [a brand] that’s off the radar.”

    Wasserman Media Group manages Nationwide’s motorsports sponsorship.

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  • There’s money to be made, but Web video’s still coming into focus

    Terry Lefton
    As a survivor of the original Internet bubble, we’re wary any time the latest digital widget promises to save, change, transform, enrich or otherwise permanently alter or improve our life.

    We aren’t a card-carrying Luddite. What we are carrying at all times is a smartphone (if a BlackBerry still qualifies as that) and an iPad. This chair just makes us hypersensitive.

    Still, the battle for a standard video platform on the Web strikes as intriguing and potentially galactic in size. Whichever company develops a standard allowing consumers to transfer video to social media sites as easily as they post photos will be a big winner, and there is potential everywhere in Web video.

    The established Web powers have already made their wagers in the form of Facebook buying Instagram for $1 billion, Twitter buying Vine, and Google buying YouTube for $1.65 billion back in 2006. The big guys are making money off Web video now. However, many publishers would like a lower-cost alternative.

    “Google/YouTube continues to be everyone’s ‘frenemy’ as the market looks for other solutions,” said former NHL marketer Bryant McBride, CEO of Burst, which provides the likes of Competitor Group and NJ.com a platform for easy video posting from iPhones and Android devices, along with what they say is immediate advertising integration.

    Burst’s platform is a business-to-business play, attracting interest from old-line media companies as it is streaming events ranging from high school sports to the Tour de France, which it did for the Competitor Group. (Full disclosure: American City Business Journals, parent company to SportsBusiness Journal/Daily, has a minority stake investment in Burst.)

    There are a number of old-line media companies looking for the video solution that will allow easy user-generated content and keep viewers and their eyeballs on their sites.

    The macros of video growth created for and consumed on the Web are scary in their enormity.

    Investor Ronnie Lott (left) and founder and CEO Paul Shen hold the TVU system, designed to capture HD-quality video and transmit it via satellite.
    Photo by: TVU
    “You’re talking about eight- to 10-times growth in Web video over the next 36 months,” McBride said. “So there’s lots of VC and other money out there, and some sharks in the water.”

    Another company mining the b-to-b play is TVU Networks, which makes a backpack-sized system it says can capture HD quality video and transmit it via satellite. The company has been successful in the news business and now is pitching to sports properties and broadcast rights holders, with recent purchases by the NHL, MLS, SNY and ESPN, who are all looking to fill the burgeoning need for video for their in-house sites and networks.

    Former NFLer Ronnie Lott holds equity in TVU.

    “With digital distribution and so many more cable sports networks, there’s more demand for content than ever,” said TVU founder and CEO Paul Shen. “Anyone that makes that easier and less expensive wins, and that’s what we do.”

    There is market potential in so many areas of Web video. Consumer-targeted Magisto, which claims 11 million downloads of its app since its 2010 launch, uses artificial intelligence to automatically edit consumers’ raw video into a Web film, which can last as long as three minutes. Compare that to Vine, which allows users to post six-second video clips, or Instagram’s video time limit of 15 seconds.

    James Robinson, whose Alliance Marketing Partners is also the company’s agency, counts 8 billion smartphones worldwide producing an average of eight movies a month. Currently, less than 1 percent of those make it to the Web.

    Hear the virtual cash registers ringing?

    Since advertising normally follows eyeballs, the implications for marketers are just as enormous.
    “Allowing all those people with smartphone video capabilities to easily create and post Web video is the key to a big treasure chest. That’s what Magisto has,” Robinson said.

    Of course, the Web video gold rush isn’t all about user-generated video. This all presages a time when broadband rivals and exceeds TV as the de facto consumer choice for video. That could facilitate cable cord cutting, the only apparent Achilles’ heel for ESPN.

    And what could happen if accessing video of your children’s Little League or AYSO games gets as easy as clicking on ESPN?

    “If it’s as accessible as clicking your remote, we might get to a time when high school and ancillary sports really matter in the live sports universe,” said former NFL new media chief Chris Russo.

    As we see more sports marketers departing for the Web video gold rush, it looks kind of familiar.
    “2013 is a lot like 1995 around here,” tweeted Geoff Reiss, the new head of sports partnerships for Twitter, who was an original Starwave/ESPN.com marketer.

    “It’s amazing how many years we’ve been talking about how important Web video will be to this businesses,” acknowledged media sales vet Keith Cutler, now senior vice president, strategic partnerships, at social sports site LockerDome, which allows content partners to embed the video player of their choice. “I still believe all that, but the waters are still pretty murky.”

    > MIXING IT UP: Just when we thought we’d heard every sponsorship designation possible, including official fish taco and official custard, St. Louis Rams CMO Bob Reif informs us that the team now has what we believe to be the first official blender of any NFL franchise. Blendtec, which claims that its machines, priced at $450 and up, can blend anything from hockey pucks to marbles, has 20 blenders set up in the team’s player lounge for mixing smoothies. Blendtec also will demo its products at Rams tailgates by mixing smoothies.
     
    Its deal includes an, ahem, mix of ads in Rams-controlled media, both traditional and digital, along with a branded smoothie bar in the Rams’ players lounge.

    > THE LATEST SPIN: Peter Farnsworth’s TopSpin charity table tennis event will celebrate its fifth year with a tournament among sports and entertainment marketing types set for Nov. 6 at Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan. Money raised benefits various educational charities: Fayetteville-Manlius A Better Chance; Change for Kids; Horizons-Brooklyn Friends School; Children’s Aid Society; and Wishbone. Sponsors include Coke, Turner, NBA Cares, MLS, NFL, GroupM, ANC Sports and the NHL.

    Bialek
    >
    COMINGS & GOINGS:
    ANC Sports Marketing President Dave Bialek is leaving the firm after seven years to hang his own shingle as Skylark Marketing, which he described as a sports marketing and technology firm. Bialek, a member of the SportsBusiness Journal/Daily Forty Under 40 class of 2009, said Skylark will have “a core competency in team sponsorships and an ongoing consulting relationship with ANC.” Charter clients are LogoPaint, the 3-D Signs patent holder; NuCalm Performance, a neuropsychobiology “all natural restorative curative” for athletes; and SmartSports, an athletic performance reporting system that promises to combine technology with scouting.

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

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