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Volume 24 No. 156

Marketing and Sponsorship

The dunk that won the NBA’s Sprite Slam Dunk Contest Saturday night took only a few seconds to complete, but the process that united Blake Griffin with Kia, the league's official car, was around five weeks in the making. N.Y.-based Excel Sports Management handles Griffin, and the company’s VP/Marketing Jaymee Messler said the idea came from Griffin in January. Kia sponsors both the NBA and Griffin's Clippers. "We knew if it was going to be a car, it would have to be a Kia," Messler said. While Kia has been reticent to use athletes in their stateside marketing outside of golfer Michelle Wie, a quick call to the automaker’s U.S. HQs confirmed their enthusiasm. However, there was the not-inconsiderable matter of convincing Sprite, title sponsor of the event since ‘03 and one of the league's largest corporate patrons, that Kia was not carjacking the event. With the help of NBA officials, the Kia Optima was used. It was not a billboard for the automaker and also included Sprite logos as a nod to Coca-Cola. "We had to be very respectful of Coke's rights and fortunately they saw the value it had for the overall event," said Tim McGhee, Senior VP for IMG Consulting, Kia's sports and sponsorship agency. Kia paid what McGhee called "a reasonable" incremental fee to stage the automotive aerial.

FLAWLESS IN PRACTICE: Griffin rehearsed the dunk on the Staples Center court Thursday night after an appearance on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” "During this whole process we wanted this to be fun, not like an obligation," said Messler. "Blake did two or three and they were all flawless, so that was it." Added McGhee, "He jumped over the car so easily at the rehearsal that there was some talk, not necessarily serious talk, of him jumping over the roof." As presenting sponsor of Sunday's All-Star Game telecast, Kia scrambled to produce a TV ad including the dunk for the game, but ultimately there was not enough time. However, a TV ad is still in the works. "We haven't started to calculate the media value of this yet, but you just know it is something that will endure," McGhee said. Griffin signed the steering wheel of the car yesterday during a Jam Session appearance and the vehicle will be auctioned off for a yet-unnamed charity.

GRIFFIN IN DEMAND: Griffin’s marketing prowess is now soaring higher than the flight path above the Kia. Subway debuted a national TV ad with Griffin last week, and Griffin also has deals with Nike and PowerBar. After that? "Obviously, we are talking to Kia about a longer-term relationship," said Messler. "Overall, he's someone that's beginning to transcend basketball and we are looking for few other long-term partnerships that make sense. Especially in season, there's not a lot of time. But the interest on him over the last few months -- this just brought it up a level or two."

TAKE A SECOND LOOK AT US: For Kia, which took national stage on a building where rival Toyota is a huge sponsor, the hope is that the Griffin dunk makes consumers take a different look at the brand. The tagline is "The Power to Surprise," and “we think we have surprised people now," said IMG Consulting Vice President Shawn Morrissey. Given the attention that the dunk has attracted, there have been quite a few comments to the effect that no NBA player would drive a Kia. Not the point, says Morrissey. "We present Kia as fans of the game, and if it gets them in consumers' consideration set now, then we're doing our job," he added.

Labatt Brewing Co. has signed multiyear deals with both the Canucks and Flames "worth millions of dollars," marking the "first time Labatt has sponsored an NHL team directly," according to a source cited by Josh Rubin of the TORONTO STAR. Both the Canucks and Flames are "in the final season of multi-year deals with Labatt archrival Molson Coors." Signing deals with the teams "represents a change of strategy for Labatt, which until now had focused on sponsoring the NHL as a whole in Canada, rather than individual teams." Labatt's sponsorship of the NHL in Canada ends after this season, and the league "is believed to be seeking a new North America-wide beer sponsorship deal instead." Labatt Dir of Corporate Affairs Charlie Angelakos said that the brewer "has an agreement to renew through 2014, but acknowledged the renewal is in dispute." Morningstar analyst Philip Gorham said that the Canadian team deals "were a good idea for Labatt." However, he "wasn't so sure if a North American deal would make sense for its parent company," A-B InBev (TORONTO STAR, 2/19).

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) last month "offered an amendment to the House budget bill to end the military's sponsorships" in motorsports, but the amendment “was defeated on Friday, 281-148,” according to William Rhoden of the N.Y. TIMES. The amendment "sought to prohibit taxpayer funds form being used for sponsorship of racecars, dragsters, Indy cars and motorcycle racing." McCollum on Thursday said, “I have nothing against NASCAR. The Defense Department said it didn’t have anything that could be cut. Seven million dollars to sponsor a car and we’re cutting cops, we’re cutting teachers, we’re cutting programs for homeless vets?” She also wanted to “repeal the $45 million special tax earmark for NASCAR and race track owners included in the 2010 law that extended the Bush tax cuts.” She said, “What is it about NASCAR as a special interest that we can’t even have an open discussion on the priorities?” McCollum “received hate mail, including a fax in her office laced with obscenities.” In yesterday’s Daytona 500, three cars were sponsored by the military, and Armed forces officials said that the sponsorship “helps recruiting.” But Rhoden noted the Navy and the Marine Corps “have pulled out of the NASCAR sponsorship business -- precisely because they could not gauge the effectiveness of their campaigns on recruiting” (N.Y. TIMES, 2/19). McCollum after the vote said that she will “introduce new legislation to prohibit taxpayer funds from being used for motor sports sponsorships” (, 2/18).’s Bob Pockrass reported the Army “had planned to announce a sponsorship program for diversity driver Darrell Wallace but postponed the announcement considering the pending vote in the House” (, 2/18).

WORTH THE INVESTMENT: Army Lt. General Benjamin Freakley said that the $7.4M the Army is spending annually to sponsor NASCAR is “being put to good use, as he estimates 46,000 leads have come directly from NASCAR and the environment gives recruiters a great way to reach young people.” Freakley: “I have to make some form of investment to make the American people aware of their army. And this is what we think is a good investment” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/19). NASCAR Managing Dir of Corporate Communications Ramsey Poston said that he “believed the sport offered an ideal Army partnership.” He added that NASCAR statistics “show 1 of 5 fans served or is currently serving in the military, and 1 of 3 current service members is a NASCAR fan” (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 2/20).

FORWARD MARCH: In Orlando, Ludmilla Lelis noted “green energy, health initiatives and food drives now vie with beer, sports drinks and automotive parts for stockcar racing’s more than 400 corporate sponsorships.” The AARP Foundation’s Drive To End Hunger will be Jeff Gordon’s “main sponsor for 22 races” per year over the next three seasons, and Saturday’s Nationwide race was titled the DRIVE4COPD 300. DRIVE4COPD is a “health initiative targeting race fans because of their increased risk for lung diseases.” NASCAR also "has been 'going green,' and welcomes sponsorships from renewable energy." The change in sponsorships is “another effect of the recession,” as “tighter economic times have forced some longtime NASCAR sponsors to scale back or drop out entirely.” IEG reported “motorsports sponsorship spending dropped” to $3.3B in ’09. New entries this year “have helped that spending rebound” to $3.51B (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/19). NASCAR Dir of Business Communications Andrew Giangola said the company is “bullish on the prospects for increased sponsorship sales” this year. ISC VP & CMO Daryl Wolfe said his company has been “encouraged by initial corporate spending trends in many areas with agreements in place for the substantial majority of our annual budget” this year (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 2/20).

Bulls G Derrick Rose wore yellow adidas shoes during last night's NBA All-Star Game as a "tribute" to Simeon Career Academy, his high school alma mater, according to Herb Gould of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Rose said, "That was a shout-out to them." Rose said that he heard "shoe barbs from his fellow All-Stars 'the whole game.'" Rose: "'Why'd adidas put you in those shoes?' Stuff like that. It was all fun and games." adidas designers at Rose's request also "placed three paneled zones on his new yellow adiZero 1.5 Rose shoe to honor his three brothers, Reggie, Allan and Dwayne." Gould notes Rose in the second half of the game "shed Simeon's colors and went to another new design, a black shoe with a white toe and white racing stripes on the back" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/21).

PEAK PERFORMERS: Wizards C JaVale McGee, who finished second in the Sprite Slam Dunk contest Saturday behind Clippers F Blake Griffin, changed his shoes "for each of his slam dunks." McGee wears Peak shoes, and TNT's Reggie Miller noted McGee was changing the Chinese company's shoes during the net's coverage of the event. TNT's Charles Barkley joked, "What are those, the Chinese version of PF Flyers?" In Sacramento, Scott Lebar notes "aside from the ribbing, Peak did win." McGee wore his "special Wolverine model and tweet about his collection," while Warriors F Dorell Wright wore Peak shoes during his appearance in the three-point contest. While several other NBA players have Peak endorsement deals, the "most publicity they received" prior to All-Star Weekend was when Lakers coach Phil Jackson "complained they gave Ron Artest plantar fasciitis" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/21).

TIME TO BALL: In L.A., Raha Lewis reported Artest Saturday night had an "intimate party to celebrate the launch of his mixtape that came out Friday and his new sneaker line Ball'n, which he owns with partner Rodney Jeter." The shoes, which became available in stores over the weekend, are "available now in variations of the Laker colors, purple and yellow," but will be released in other colors in March." Around 5% of all proceeds "will be donated to charities" (, 2/20).'s Darren Rovell wrote a ruling by a California Court of Appeals last Wednesday "might have significantly affected the lawsuit brought about by former NCAA college football and basketball players against the NCAA, Collegiate Licensing and Electronic Arts for including their likenesses in EA games without being compensated." A three-judge panel "allowed a lawsuit filed by the rock band No Doubt against video [game] maker Activision Blizzard to proceed." Activision "had a contract to use No Doubt" in "Band Hero," but the panel ruled that it was "outside Activision's rights to manipulate the avatars of band members and have them sing songs that they don't sing." Rovell wrote Activision's argument is "similar to what EA lawyers used" last Tuesday "when defending the lawsuit in front of an appeals court in California." If the appellate court "decides that EA is indeed using" players' likenesses, the court "will likely have to take into account the No Doubt decision when making its ruling" (, 2/18).

GREENS FEE: Golfers Cristie Kerr and Ricky Barnes have signed endorsement deals to represent Duff & Phelps, an independent advisory and investment banking firm. Kerr and Barnes will wear the Duff & Phelps marks during competition and the golfers will be featured in client events. The deals were negotiated by New Jersey-based Blake Sports Group, which represents the golfers (Michael Smith, SportsBusiness Journal).

SCORE ONE FOR THE STEELERS: In Pittsburgh, Rich Lord reported the Steelers Friday won a "contempt of court order against clothes maker Nicholas Wohlfarth and his firm Turtle Creek Sportswear." U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry ruled that Wohlfarth "violated a 2005 consent order enjoining him from marketing knock-off shirts, hoodies and hats by selling a slew of products with symbols that suggested Steelers trademarks." Wohlfarth must give up "a season's worth of profits from his sale of various black-and-gold goods" (, 2/18).

NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT: In Nashville, Mike Organ writes the “push to save” the Nashville Fairgrounds “went national Sunday during the Daytona 500,” as Brian Keselowski’s No. 92 Dodge featured a black stripe with in white lettering. Fox’ Darrell Waltrip, a Tennessee native, “mentioned the local sponsorship during the race as did Kyle Petty during a pre-race show on Speed Channel.” Save My Fairgrounds is a group “trying to keep the quarter-mile track” in Nashville from being part of Mayor Karl Dean’s redevelopment plan (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 2/21).