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Volume 24 No. 155

Marketing and Sponsorship

GM is "again sponsoring the NCAA men's basketball tournament, letting its upscale Buick brand take the opening left when it killed its Pontiac brand after it sponsored" the '09 tourney, according to Chrissie Thompson of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. The sponsorship of the tournament "came up for bid when Pontiac met its bankruptcy-era demise after the 2009 tournament." A new Buick marketing campaign, "sans tag line, debuts April 2" during the Final Four. GM said that it is "targeting two distinct upscale buyers with Buick and Cadillac." GM VP/U.S. Marketing Chris Perry said Buick will aim at buyers who want "to be part of the community, rather than above it." GM "wants Cadillac, in contrast, to appeal to individualistic customers who want to stand out in their pursuit of luxury." Thompson notes Buick is "playing to its customers' community interest through the Buick Human Highlight Reel, which will use the NCAA tourney sponsorship to spotlight former college athletes' charitable work" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 3/16). AD AGE's David Kiley noted Buick is "sponsoring post-game shows on Turner and CBS," as well as "content on NCAA official apps on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Foursquare." Buick also will "run model ads in game, on the web and on radio, especially for its newly redesigned Regal sedan." Buick VP/Marketing Tony DiSalle said he is expecting "over 1 billion ad impressions for the brand in the next three weeks" (, 3/15).

CATCH THE HIGHLIGHTS: The Buick Human Highlight Reel launches at the beginning of the tournament, and a collection and archive of complete stories will appear online at Buick also will be the exclusive title sponsor of a 30-minute show featuring select Human Highlight Reel stories that will air prior to the Final Four games on April 2 (GM).

VF’s Majestic Athletic licensed sports apparel brand will debut a TV ad supporting the launch of its MLB batting practice jersey. The longtime rights holder for authentic MLB jerseys is using players for the first time in the ad, which will air on MLB Network, MLB rights holders ESPN and TBS, and various RSNs carrying MLB games. Michael Johnson, Marketing VP at VF’s Licensed Sports Group, said it was his company’s largest-ever marketing campaign. The ad was filmed in January at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington to back the launch of Majestic's batting practice jersey. The ad will run through May. In the spot, Rangers CF and AL MVP Josh Hamilton watches a portly fan struggle to hit a home run at batting practice. When the fan claims the problem is that his BP jersey is broken, Hamilton shows that his is not by depositing a ball into the seats. Waylon Advertising, St. Louis, is the ad agency. The new batting practice jersey is said to be Majestic’s lightest batting practice jersey yet. Along with a new full-button front, it carries the same $100 price point as its predecessor.

Guinness is "rolling out a soccer-themed game show across Africa, as it looks to lift sales in the continent's crucial markets," according to Paul Sonne of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The Guinness Football Challenge, a TV game show that "has launched in Kenya and is arriving soon in Ghana and Cameroon, is part of a broader effort to channel the continent's obsession with soccer into a greater love for the famous stout." The Kenya version of the show ended in December, but Guinness parent Diageo is "planning a second season." The Cameroonian version starts on March 28, and the Ghanaian version launches April 14. The show has a "viewer-participation element, as a way to make contact with individual consumers." A few weeks before the "first 10-episode season launched in Kenya last fall, Diageo rolled out Guinness bottles with codes under the caps." Drinkers texted those codes "at the end of each episode for chances to win one million Kenyan shillings ($11,655)." Guinness received five million texts from 350,000 people over 14 weeks. Sonne notes the project is an "indication of how Diageo, the world's biggest spirits company by volume, is increasingly comfortable jumping into TV shows, which can be a cost-effective marketing tool." The networks are "happy to show the content for free or little cost, so a brand like Guinness can get extended air time for the price of producing a show." It is "often more effective than paying for commercial time" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/16).

Richard Childress Racing today announced an associate sponsorship with Rheem that will see the heating and cooling product manufacturer become the primary sponsor at three races on the No. 29 car driven by Kevin Harvick. Rheem previously had a relationship with RCR from '07-09. It partnered with Harvick's race team, Kevin Harvick Inc., in '10. The associate deal for the No. 29 car will make Rheem the primary sponsor at NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in Sonoma, Atlanta and Texas. It will have space on the lower quarter panel for the other races. Rheem will use the sponsorship to promote its tankless water heaters. The deal trims the open primaries for the No. 29 car, which has partnerships with Budweiser and Jimmy John's, to four races in ’11 (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal).

EXIDE FINDS A RIDE: Turner Motorsports has signed Exide Technologies as a sponsor for the team's '11 NASCAR racing season. The Exide Batteries logo will appear on the hood and sides of the No. 31 and No. 32 Camping World Truck Series entries. It also will be on the No. 34 Nationwide Series car during select races (Turner Motorsports).

In Boston, Thomas Grillo reported fans should not expect to see Celtics F Kevin Garnett "pitching coconut water on TV ads," despite his new sponsorship deal with Zico. The coconut water brand's annual advertising budget is under $4M, "with most of that money going to free samples." Zico Founder & CEO Mark Rampolla said, "We’re a small company so we can’t afford to do any big campaigns." Still, Rampolla said that he "expects Zico to have $100 million in revenue by the end of the year and insists Garnett will play a big role in expanding the company" (BOSTON HERALD, 3/15).

GAIN ON SECOND DOWN: Eagles QB Michael Vick has "landed an endorsement deal with Lutte Licensing Group, maker and distributor of Core Synergy, a titanium-infused silicone wristband." This partnership comes after Vick in January signed a two-year contract with Unequal Technologies, "his first endorsement since a conviction on dogfighting charges" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/15). Vick joins Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey and Packers LB A.J. Hawk as representatives for Lutte Licensing Group (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 3/15).

ANDRE THE GIANT:'s Jon Robinson noted former tennis star Andre Agassi remains "one of the most marketable and beloved players in the game today, even in retirement," which is why 2K Sports signed him as the cover athlete for its forthcoming title, "Top Spin 4." Agassi said, "It certainly feels good to be connected to the game in way that transcends to the next generation. That's why I wanted to get involved, to continue that connection to a sport that has given me a platform to do so much in my life. It's certainly one component of how I choose to do it, and seeing all of the other players who are involved, it's easy to understand why we're with such a great company that's able to communicate how we do what we do on the court. Watching it come alive is a fun thing" (, 3/14).

WAVE YOUR FLAG: New Era has announced Reds 1B Joey Votto, Rays CF B.J. Upton, D'Backs RF Justin Upton, Sabres G Ryan Miller and skateboarder Stevie Williams as its '11 lineup of "Flagbearers." The athletes will be featured in New Era's national ad campaign, which includes print, digital, outdoor ads, TV and non-traditional media (New Era). 

YOUR NAME HERE: In a Q&A with the GLOBE & MAIL's Richard Blackwell, Bauer President & CEO Kevin Davis discussed the importance of celebrity endorsements and said, "It is an important part of our business to make sure that the best players in the world want to use our products. It lends authenticity and credibility to the brand. Almost 70 per cent of the players in the NHL wear our skates, and we have endorsement relationships with some of those guys, because if you want someone to go to a photo shoot or meet some kids, it’s only fair that you have an endorsement relationship" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/14).

FINDING WORK: Packers RB Ryan Grant has "taken on a job as the new spokesperson" for the AFL Milwaukee Mustangs. Mustangs GM Jason Clark said that Grant "will be used in marketing and advertising materials" for the franchise, including radio commercials (, 3/14).

The GLOBE & MAIL’s Simon Houpt notes some of the NHL’s "most vocal critics on the concussion controversy are keeping quiet in the wake of the league’s moves this week to confront the issue with a new set of initiatives." Air Canada and Via Rail, which last week sent letters to the NHL “insisting it act immediately to curb the growing number of head injuries, both failed to return requests for comment” yesterday. Reebok Canada, “whose vice-president and general manager had suggested in a media report that new rules might need to be adopted to manage the game’s faster speed in the post-lockout era,” also declined to comment. Hyundai Canada VP/Marketing John Vernile, whose company sponsors the CBC's "Hockey Night In Canda," said, “We’re delighted that the NHL is taking this seriously, and they’re trying to put some steps in place to reduce head injuries in the game” (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/16).

GETTING SCHOOLED: BROADCASTING & CABLE’s Jon Lafayette notes Farmers Insurance, the “once-quiet insurer” that recently acquired naming rights to AEG’s proposed downtown L.A. stadium in a deal valued at $600-700M, is now a “more aggressive advertiser.” Farmers Insurance Exec VP & CMO Kevin Kelso said, “We made a decision a few years ago that the category had changed in terms of marketing, and that there were competitors who were spending quite a bit in the media and on sponsorships. And we had never really been a terribly big advertiser.” He added, “It became clear to us that to succeed in what is a changed category environment, we needed to operate a little bit differently. Our University of Farmers campaign is having good success. We’ve stepped up to several sponsorship opportunities, including the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament and now Farmers Field” (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 3/14 issue).

BALANCING ACT: In Boston, Thomas Grillo reports New Balance “has stomped out the competition for a swath of land next to its Brighton headquarters and taken the first steps toward building a proposed $235 million development off the Massachusetts Turnpike.” The company paid $26.5M “for two properties on Guest Street” (BOSTON HERALD, 3/16).