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Volume 24 No. 160

Marketing and Sponsorship

The NHL has signed MillerCoors in the U.S. and Molson Coors in Canada as its newest corporate sponsor in a mammoth seven-year deal across North America that is the league’s most financially lucrative sponsorship ever. With the deal, it replaces Anheuser-Busch, which held U.S. NHL league sponsorship rights since ‘94, and A-B-owned Labatt, the NHL's Canadian beer sponsor since ‘98. MillerCoors has committed to spending $375M over the next seven years through an estimated $100M in rights fees, $100M in activation expenditures, another $100M in media buys with league rights holders and various club spending obligations. The deal is effective July 1. "Hockey is a sport that's extremely strong with our customers in the Northeast and Midwest and overall we see this as a bet on the future of the NHL," said MillerCoors CMO Andy England. "NHL fans are the biggest consumers of beer among fans of any major league sport, so it's just a nice match for us." England added that Molson Canadian's "heritage" positioning and Coors Light's message of "Cold Refreshment" are also nice creative matches for the NHL. MillerCoors’ Molson Canadian will be the lead Canadian brand under the deal, while Molson and Coors Light will leverage the NHL in the U.S. Molson has sponsorships with all six Canadian NHL teams, including an exclusive deal with the Canadiens. In the U.S., Coors Light has deals with the Avalanche, Coyotes, Panthers, Stars and Thrashers. Miller Lite sponsors the Blue Jackets, Ducks, Penguins, Red Wings and Sabres.

LATEST JOSTLING AMONG BREWERS: The NHL/MillerCoors deal continues a turbulent past 10 months between brewers and major sports properties. Last May, A-B signed a deal allowing it to supplant Coors as the NFL's official beer, effective April 1, 2011, for rights that Coors held since ‘02. In the fall, Budweiser and MLB got into some nasty litigation over their renewal, with the two sides eventually settling and renewing their 31-year-old sponsorship. After losing NFL rights to A-B, MillerCoors was hoping to land MLB rights until the disputing A-B/MLB parties settled. While sources said MillerCoors was seeking a national sports sponsorship since losing NFL rights, England said, "We examine each deal on its own merit." However, after the exclusive negotiating periods for both Labatt and A-B expired with the NHL, league COO John Collins said it took the league less than a week to hammer out a new North American agreement with MillerCoors after a meeting in Chicago just after the Jan. 30 NHL All-Star Game. With the NHL seeking a new TV deal, a major new beer contract is a nice start. "You have to admire what Coors did with its NFL rights as far as activation," said Collins. "Filling an important category like this is a nice part of any TV deal and we are as well positioned as a sport and a business as we ever have been." Earlier this season, the NHL added Discover as a corporate sponsor, renewed U.S. rights deals with Bridgestone and McDonald's, and finalized new Canadian deals with Canadian Tire and Tim Hortons.

A-B HAD REDUCED NATIONAL ACTIVATION: A-B still retains a number of NHL team deals, and over the years did some memorable NHL-themed ads, including the "Bubble Hockey" series. However, in recent years, A-B's national activation of league rights shrunk. "A-B has been a good partner for the NHL, but over time, their hockey focus seems to have moved to almost exclusively local versus any meaningful advertising and promotion commitments on the league level," said Ed Horne, whose 15 years with the league included seven as NHL Enterprises President. Horne is now COO of Madison Avenue Sports & Entertainment. "If the new deal ensures that club beer deals remain intact and the NHL now has a partner that will help capitalize on national inventory and assets, that would be a great win for the league and their broadcast partners.” Not coincidentally, Labatt just announced its first NHL team sponsorships this week with the Canucks and Flames. Both deals are effective after this season.

Nike is “close to finalizing an extension of its sponsorship” with the USOC, “guaranteeing it will be outfitting Team USA athletes on the podium through at least 2016,” according to Lefton & Mickle of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The renewal “extends Nike’s position as the official outfitter of Team USA.” Nike will provide the “podium uniforms worn during medal ceremonies” at the ’14 Sochi and ’16 Rio de Janeiro Games, and will “have access to U.S. Olympic marks and graphics for use in advertising and marketing and for display on its other brands such as Converse.” Nike has made Team USA-branded hats, shirts and jackets for every Olympics since the ‘06 Turin Games. Terms of the deal were not available, but sources indicated that it is “a modest increase” over the previous deal, which was valued at close to $15M over four years and “was a mix of cash and product.” The renewal is the “first the USOC has completed for the 2013-16 quadrennial” and gives the organization “some early momentum as it looks to extend partnerships with more than a half-dozen key partners” before the ’12 London Games. Nike also sponsors “10 U.S. national governing bodies, including USA Basketball, USA Hockey, U.S. Soccer and USA Track & Field” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/21 issue).

Procter & Gamble announced today that Twins C Joe Mauer will become an endorser for the company's Head & Shoulders shampoo. Mauer will be featured in advertisements, a dedicated Head & Shoulders for Men Facebook fan page, in-store displays and consumer engagement set to launch in July (P&G). Mauer said that he and Steelers S Troy Polamalu, a fellow Head & Shoulders endorser, “will appear in an ad together.” USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy notes Mauer is “known for his thick mane and sideburns,” with a “fan Facebook page dedicated to his sideburns.” Mauer and Polamalu are “not the only jocks to score endorsement bucks in the traditionally female hair-care category,” as Packers LB Clay Matthews recently signed a deal to endorse Unilever's Suave brand (USA TODAY, 2/22).

Broncos QB Tim Tebow has "capitalized on his positive image to secure multiple commercial endorsements," but Tebow insisted he does not "have the time right now to do a lot of commercials and ads,” according to Gene Frenette of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION.  Tebow endorses Nike, EA Sports, Jockey, FRS Healthy Energy drink and Palm Beach Autographs, but when asked if he would “have as much commercial exposure and endorsement income” as Colts QB Peyton Manning, Tebow said, “I’m not sure how I would approach the opportunity to take it to that level. I’d have to look at each circumstance. If I believe in everything and feel it’s right, I wouldn’t mind it. But I have my priorities in a certain order." Tebow noted when he is approached to endorse a product, he runs it "through a multitude of counselors.” He said, “I don’t rush into those decisions. I start by asking myself, 'Do I use the product? Do I believe in it and what it stands for?’” He added, “We put in the contract that I want them to be involved in my foundation to give back as well. I have that with every single one of them.” Frenette notes Tebow last year appeared in a pro-life commercial along with his mother during Super Bowl XLIV, and there was a lot of talk that “it would negatively impact” his endorsement potential. However, "just the opposite happened.” Tebow: "It’s not about being on billboards. I endorse something because I believe in it. I endorse pro-life for the same reason. ... My integrity means more to me than any fame or money” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 2/22).'s J.A. Adande cited sources as saying that the Kia Optima over which Clippers F Blake Griffin dunked in Saturday's Sprite Slam Dunk Contest "will be given to the Clippers, who will then donate it or sell it in a manner they see fit." But that "won't be the end of the connection between the car and Griffin," as you will be "seeing the two together in Kia advertisements." Griffin "let the NBA know he was going to dunk over a car, and the league made sure that car would belong to a league partner, which Kia has been for four years." The contracts "weren't signed until Saturday morning." Later, the "realization that the way the dunk would be executed required" Clippers G Baron Davis "to agree to the use of his image, as well, generated a flurry of even more paperwork that wasn't finished until shortly before the contest" (, 2/21). Meanwhile,'s Adena Andrews reported Griffin "will donate $100 to the Dunking for Dollars campaign to fight childhood obesity" for each dunk this season, and the Nestlé Foundation "has partnered with Griffin to match what he raises dollar for dollar." Griffin "has made 137 dunks so far this season, generating a total of $13,700" (, 2/21).

YOUR NAME HERE: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Matthew Hansen is the winner of the annual Crown Royal "Your Name Here" 400 program. The April 30 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond Int'l Raceway will not only recognize Hansen, but also his twin brother and fellow marine Daniel, who was killed in action in '09. The race will be titled the Crown Royal presents the Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400 (NASCAR).

FADING FROM GLORY: In N.Y., John Branch notes bowler Kelly Kulick last year "became the first woman to win" a PBA Tour men's event at the Tournament of Champions, but the "echo from her victory has faded." There was the "initial blare of headlines and a few television appearances." But there were "no endorsement offers" and "no big payday." There also were "no calls to appear with Oprah or Ellen or Rachael Ray, which she really wanted," and there was "no lasting mainstream recognition." Kulick: "If I had done what I'd done in golf, if I had beaten Vijay Singh on the last hole of the U.S. Open or something, I guarantee it would have been different" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/22).

NEW PITCH: CRAIN'S N.Y. BUSINESS reported former MLBer John Franco "just landed a new pitching assignment -- for the Municipal Credit Union." The MCU, which last year "bought the naming rights to the Mets minor league stadium on Coney Island," will use Franco "in TV and newspaper ads starting this week" (, 2/20).