With the NFL "struggling to net an increase in a soft-
drink category that has been its cash cow, NFL owners ...
may finally be ready to address the question of whether" the
league "should fundamentally change the way it sells
corporate sponsorships," according to Terry Lefton of
BRANDWEEK. Recent "industry buzz" has incumbent Coca-Cola
offering $18M and Pepsi $14-15M, "but with little
enthusiasm," for the category. And while NFLP Senior Dir of
Corporate Sponsorships Steve Phelps said that fast-food
negotiations have been "put aside" pending a soda deal,
"insiders say Taco Bell balked" at the $10M price tag the
league was "hoping to get from incumbent McDonald's."
Without being specific, Phelps said that those numbers have
changed and added, "we will land a soft-drink deal within a
month, and we will get an increase if we grant certain
rights." Strike Ten VP/Marketing John Sohigian on the NFL's
negotiations: "Rights fees are going down as far as pure
cash, so to get an increase, the value has to go up
significantly." MLS Exec VP Randy Bernstein: "Sponsors
don't care so much about logo exposure, it is their caseload
and are you moving that?" (Terry Lefton, BRANDWEEK, 3/23).
HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH? Lefton adds that the "larger
issue" is whether the NFL should expect rights fee increases
"when sponsors may see as much as a 30% increase in the cost
of advertising on NFL games." Sprint VP/Advertising &
Sponsorships Tim Kelly, on the $24M annual rights the
company pays: "I'm pretty confident in telling you we won't
be able to buy much more." The NFL has 17 categories up for
renewal, and Phelps said, "We are going to have a record
year as far as renewal percentage as well as renewal dollars
and activation." Lefton adds that the value of the TV and
Sprint deals "may have also convinced ownership that there
is similar revenue potential in corporate sponsorship."
IMG's Gary Jacobus, a former NFLP Sales Exec, said, "Some
owners think they should be getting that (amount) in every
big category. It just can't be done" (BRANDWEEK, 3/23).
SPONSOR SEARCH: The Detroit Free Press Int'l Marathon
Presented by M-CARE is searching for a title sponsor. The
October 16-18 event is managed and operated by IMG (IMG).
NOTES: In AZ, D'Backs Manager Buck Showalter is
starring in TV ads for Bank One. A future ad will include
one that is tied to Bank One Ballpark's 8,000 tons of air
conditioning. It will feature Showalter and D'Backs
pitching coach Mark Connor wearing parkas (ARIZONA REPUBLIC,
3/25)....NY-based ANC Sports Enterprises has signed multi-
year agreements with the Braves, Dodgers, Devil Rays and
Padres to serve as the exclusive supplier of rotating
signage at their ballparks. ANC Sports now serves six MLB
teams, and will work with the Dodgers in selling inventory
for the signage (ANC Sports)....The MLBPA has licensed WA-
based Pacific Trading Cards to create and distribute MLB
player trading cards. The first product released under the
new license will ship to retailers in May (MLBPA)....MA-
based Woolf Associates has been retained by Boston College
QB Matt Hasselbeck for representation (Woolf Associates).
SOUTHERN MEN: The Southern League of Professional
Baseball Clubs announced a new marketing partnership with
FL-based AirTran Airlines that includes several advertising
components, an AirTran home run/triple promo and presenting
sponsorships. In addition, Southern Ford Dealers have been
named title sponsor for the '98 Southern League All-Star
Game June 22 in Mobile, AL (Southern League).
Fishing is a $108B-a-year industry "that marketers are
turning into one of the hottest marketplaces" in the U.S.,
according to USA TODAY's J. Taylor Buckley in a "Money"
section cover story. Mass marketers from GM to General
Mills are now "solidly hooked," and companies from Northwest
Airlines to Land O' Lakes "are writing checks of $250,000
and more just to be identified" as fishing event sponsors.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that 35.2
million recreational anglers spent $37.8B directly on
fishing trips and gear in '96. Making those numbers "light
up even brighter are the sport's demographics." Close to 11
million of the 35.2 anglers are ages 15 and younger, and
about three quarters of them male, "an especially attractive
group for marketers." Buckley calls General Mills' decision
to put a pro fishing champ on a national Wheaties box "a
breakthrough" that sends "a powerful message to mass
marketers." General Mills joins a list of "nontraditional"
sponsors that includes Coca-Cola, Fuji film and Citgo.
Citgo even "shelved its usual regional promotion" tied to a
PGA Tour event in Hartford, CT, this year in favor of one
built around the Wal-Mart FLW bass tournament slated for
June. Teamed with other tournament sponsors, Citgo will be
giving away a truck, soft drinks and merchandise coupons
redeemable at Wal-Mart (J. Taylor Buckley, USA TODAY, 3/25).