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Volume 24 No. 112

Marketing and Sponsorship

After the NHL yesterday announced a seven-year deal with MillerCoors in the U.S. and Molson Coors in Canada, Labatt Breweries of Canada claimed that they "had already struck a deal with the NHL to renew sponsorship rights in Canada through 2014," and said that they will "pursue legal action to ensure their own deal is honoured," according to Josh Rubin of the TORONTO STAR. The new North America-wide sponsorship agreement with MillerCoors and Molson Coors is worth an estimated $375M and is the "biggest sponsorship agreement in NHL history." Molson Coors Canada President & CEO Dave Perkins said that it "wasn't a tough deal to decide on." Perkins: "This is a great way for us to build on the momentum for Canadian [hockey] which grew around the Vancouver Olympics." Rubin notes the new deal makes Molson Canadian the official beer of the NHL, a role held currently by Bud Light. While the Molson Coors deal "doesn't include pouring rights -- the lucrative right to sell Molson's beer at team rinks -- Perkins has no doubt the deal will be worth the hefty price tag." However, Labatt VP/Corporate Affairs Charlie Angelakos said, "We have an agreement with the league and are pursuing all legal remedies available to us to enforce this agreement ... and we will pursue our case aggressively." NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement, "Labatt has been and continues to be a terrific partner, but we strongly disagree with their assertion that an agreement was in place for the 2011-2012 NHL season." A source said that the legal dispute "looks particularly bad for the league." The source: "What it boils down to is this: Did the NHL realize how far along the road the Toronto office was in talks with Labatt?" Rubin notes Labatt "had what the source characterized as a hand-shake deal for Canadian rights in November," while talks with Anheuser-Busch InBev for a new U.S. deal "hadn't progressed as far" (TORONTO STAR, 2/23).

TAKING IT TO THE COURTS: Angelakos said that a "lawsuit will be filed in Toronto in the near future." Angelakos: "From our standpoint, nothing went wrong. We completed legally binding terms of renewal for our sponsorship agreement with the NHL" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/23). But NHL COO John Collins today said, "We completely disagree with their assertion that we had a deal for next year" (Bloomberg TV, 2/23). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's David Kesmodel notes the dispute is the latest involving A-B InBev, the "world's largest beer maker by sales, and a major sports league." The brewer's U.S. unit sued MLB Properties in November, "claiming that it reneged on a multiyear renewal of sponsorship rights and demanded 'exponentially higher' fees." A-B InBev "later dropped the suit after the two sides reached a new pact to continue Budweiser's role as the league's official beer" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/23).

MONSTER DEAL: Collins said the MillerCoors/Molson Coors sponsorship is a "monster deal." Collins: "They're going to have major position across all of our events -- both our existing events as well as a lot of new ones that we hope to create." Perkins added, "What this will allow us to do is to take the brand to a whole new level. It enables us to really take hockey to our beer drinkers and to fans, and to provide hockey experiences behind the brand." The CP's Chris Johnston noted Collins "joined the NHL in August 2008 after holding a number of positions within the NFL," and he has "helped develop the league's current strategy and believes it is starting to pay off." Collins: "It's created a really easy path for corporate partners and advertisers to spend money against hockey. In this environment, that's critical -- to be able to attract the blue-chip top advertisers and get them to spend their marketing and advertising dollars on your sport." Johnston wrote business "has been very good for the NHL," as the league had "already eclipsed last year's number of sponsor commitments by the midpoint of this season" (CP, 2/22). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes the league indicated that its sponsorship revenue grew 32% from the '08-09 season to the '09-10 season. Since this season began, the NHL "has renewed deals with Bridgestone, Cisco Systems and McDonald's and signed new ones with Canadian Tire, Tim Hortons, BlackBerry, Discover (in the United States) and Hershey's (in Canada)." But the new beer deal is "by far the biggest." The money from MillerCoors and Molson Coors "will be split among a rights fee to the league, spending with teams, TV advertising and the value of the breweries' promotional campaigns" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/23).

IMPACT ON TV RIGHTS: Collins was asked if the league’s new beer deal could positively affect the next television rights deal for the league. He said the league's TV partners "want to know that people are going to spend money in advertising.” Collins: “Advertising is kind of the fuel that drives the entire sports business and certainly drives rights fees, so a deal of this size and a commitment from a company like (MillerCoors) is an important signal that business has got a lot of momentum and a lot of upside going forward" (Bloomberg TV, 2/23).

IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan said that he “doesn't have enough sponsorship to join De Ferran Dragon Racing for the upcoming season," according to Curt Cavin of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. Kanaan: "I came up with some money, but not enough for (de Ferran's team). The bottom line now is, who will give me a deal and for how many races?" Kanaan is "shopping for the best available deal,” but he said that he “doesn't expect to get more than a few races this season.” Kanaan's comments yesterday came after he “announced a sponsorship program” with Itaipava, a Brazilian beer company “that also will support Helio Castroneves” (, 2/22). de Ferran Dragon in December announced Kanaan would drive a full-season car sponsored by Hewlett Packard in '11. He was let go by Andretti Autosport after the '10 season after 7-Eleven ended its long-time association with the driver (THE DAILY).

SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE:’s Marshall Pruett reported Andretti Autosport has signed DHL to serve as the “co-primary sponsor of Ryan Hunter-Reay's No. 37 Izod IndyCar Series entry." Hunter-Reay said, “They will be a great partner for our team, and it’s a multi-year deal.” Hunter-Reay “has assumed the senior role” among the Andretti Autosport drivers after the departure of Kanaan. With DHL “helping to solve a significant portion of the 30-year-old driver’s funding" for the next few seasons, his "future with the team is more secure than ever.” The “livery for Hunter-Reay’s car will be revealed early next month” with the No. 37 to “initially feature DHL’s familiar colors of yellow, red and white.” Hunter-Reay said, “DHL has some pretty exciting ideas for their brand and promoting it through IndyCar and Andretti Autosport. I’m really looking forward to it.” Pruett noted DHL will also “serve as an associate sponsor on the entry for Mike Conway, Andretti’s most recent signing” (, 2/22).

ENGINE CHECK: Sarah Fisher Racing has named Indianapolis-based Allison Transmission “as an associate sponsor of Ed Carpenter’s car in the Indy 500” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/23).

MLB Network Monday broke a 45-second ad entitled "All In One Place" that is a "blend of black-and-white and color footage, with past and present greats mingling" on the network's Studio 42 field, according to Mark Newman of Babe Ruth in the ad "throws a baseball to Willie Mays, while Ty Cobb and Frank Robinson share a private moment on the field." The ad is narrated by MLBN's Bob Costas, and Newman wrote that "gave the production the weight it needed." Newman reported the ad was "seven months in the making," and MLBN VP/Creative Services Chris Mallory noted he and others who worked on the ad "went through 1,000 hours of footage" in putting it together. Mallory and his team "used Flame software for 'infinitely layerable digital compositing' after selecting appropriate footage," which is "how Walter Johnson shakes hands on the field with fellow Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax." Newman noted "two especially difficult challenges" were getting Jackie Robinson to "run out of the Studio 42 dugout in a believable manner" and "pairing black-and-white film with color videotape to show in HD." MLBN President & CEO Tony Petitti said of the spot, "Hopefully fans will take to it and get a kick out of this. We thought about the fact we had all these great guests come into Studio 42, and it got us thinking it would be fun to put players from different generations on the same field in different ways." Petitti also "chose the music track," which is "Lake Michigan" by Brushfire Records' Rogue Wave. (, 2/21).

Carmelo Anthony is expected to make his Knicks debut tonight at MSG, and FORBES' Kurt Badenhausen wrote "at first glance Anthony’s move to New York would seem to be a boon to his endorsement income." He is one of the NBA's "top scorers now playing in its biggest market with a high-profile wife, TV personality La La Vazquez, that helps keep Anthony in the news." But to date, companies have been "shy to get in bed with Anthony because he carries some baggage with him to New York," including charges of marijuana possession and DUI. Badenhausen wrote the "other thing that has held back Anthony’s endorsement career is winning" (, 2/22).

ALL FOR ONE? In Louisville, Gregory Hall notes NBC acquiring rights to all three Triple Crown races through '15 "raises the possibility of a series sponsor, like Chrysler and Visa were previously." Churchill Downs Inc. President & CEO Bob Evans, who "has pushed for months to get all three races back on the same network," said that it is "probably too late for this year." Still, Evans said that he "would envision sponsorships evolving in the same way that the TV deals did, led by a sponsor that would work with the three tracks" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 2/23).

FASHION STATEMENT: In Boston, John Tomase reports players from the Red Sox, Yankees, Giants and Phillies have been "chosen to start the design process" for this year's Players Choice Signature Series jerseys and T-shirts, "under the guidance" of the MLBPA. The product line debuted in '09 "with the Mets, and last year players from the Yankees, Mets, Twins and Phillies got in on the fun." Red Sox 3B Kevin Youkilis, LF Carl Crawford and 1B Adrian Gonzalez were "selected to help design" the Red Sox line, and all "creations will go on sale later this year" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/23).

TWIN BILLING: In St. Paul, Charley Walters reports the Twins in a few weeks "will film a couple of TV commercials" at their Spring Training home in Ft. Myers, Fla. One ad will feature DH Jim Thome as Paul Bunyan, joined by C Joe Mauer and 1B Justin Morneau. The other will feature manager Ron Gardenhire (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 2/23).