SBJ/June 9-15, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Modell’s breaks with tradition, hires Source Communications

Looking for fresh ideas with which to celebrate its 125th anniversary, Modell’s has hired Source Communications as its first outside ad agency in years. Historically, Modell’s has held marketing chores in house, although it had a brief flirtation with Berlin Cameron five years ago.

Mitchell Modell, who heads the Northeast-based sporting goods chain, said he was impressed by Source’s sports-centric work with longtime clients Wise, Amtrak, Subway franchisees and, more recently, the 2014 Super Bowl Host Committee.

The anniversary celebration will kick off at the end of August and last 125 days — through the holidays. “We’ll still have a full in-house [advertising] department, but Source is very sharp in sports marketing, a pace where we have always done a lot. (Source President) Larry Rothstein and I really clicked and we liked their branding work and their activation plans.”

Modell added that Source’s assignment was bigger than the 125th anniversary and involves traditional advertising and experiential marketing using Modell’s large portfolio of teams and athletes. Modell’s is scheduled to open three additional locations before year’s end, which will bring the store total to 158.

> MASS MERCHANDISING: Facility Merchandising Inc. has won a shootout for merchandising rights for the first College Football Playoff next year. Sources tell us that a review by the College Football Playoff COO Michael Kelly that started with nine agencies had Legends Hospitality Management and FMI as finalists. That’s an intriguing scenario, since rumors of Legends acquiring FMI were rampant late last year. Another intriguing bit of irony: The championship game will be held Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium, which is owned by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. The Cowboys also own around a third of Legends.

FMI President and CEO Milt Arenson would not comment. We’re told by several sources involved in the bidding that FMI won the bid on a multiple-year basis, even though, pro forma, the bid was for a single year.

Now the question is, how lucrative will those rights be? “To some degree that is dependent on the schools involved, but if you believe one of them will be an SEC school, which seems safe, this will be meaningful,” said Gene Goldberg, former NFL vice president of consumer products, now an independent licensing consultant.

“We’ll have to see if it can get close to Super Bowl-sized. But this an important statement for FMI as a company, which should give them some real momentum.”

FMI had Super Bowl venue merchandising rights for 24 years, before that streak was interrupted by Maingate and Lids at the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans. However, that means FMI had experience selling merchandise in what was then Cowboys Stadium along with the local convention center and hotels. FMI also does concessions for the Arizona Cardinals’ University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, which will host the 2016 collegiate football championship.

> WHEN IN ROME: CAA Sports has been retained by Serie A soccer power AS Roma to sell naming rights and other-top-tier sponsorships for its $300 million stadium and entertainment complex, scheduled to open in 2016. The entertainment and sports facility is expected to host 200 to 300 events a year and will include a 52,500-seat soccer stadium, three indoor and outdoor theaters — ranging from 900 to 14,500 seats — along with a retail and restaurant complex and an office park.

CAA Sports has not done a naming-rights deal in European soccer, though it has sold marketing inventory for top clubs, including FC Barcelona and Chelsea FC. In the U.S., its largest sales efforts have been the San Francisco 49ers’ new Levi’s Stadium and the refurbished Madison Square Garden. Sean Barror, former MSG vice president of sales, was named chief commercial officer at AS Roma in April.

Paul Danforth, head of CAA Sports global sales, said the company has been making informal sales calls over the past few weeks; formal presentations will follow.

“We’re selling on the basis of Roma’s tradition, of course, but also that this will be the sports and entertainment destination in Europe,” he said, adding that a title sponsor’s name would be spread across the facility.

“There’s really nothing like it. With everything planned for this facility, we’re certainly hoping to set the bar as far as naming rights in Europe. The best way I’ve been able to describe it is as the O2 and Emirates Stadium combined,” Danforth added.

Emirates’ $240 million naming-rights deal with Arsenal FC is a standard. To top that, “they will have to demonstrate that Roma has the same kind of international appeal as some of the top EPL teams,” said Rob Yowell of Gemini Sports Group, Phoenix, “but there’s no doubt they are the New York Yankees of Italian soccer.”

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

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