Cars.com "has withdrawn its presenting sponsorship of Saturday afternoon college football on ESPN for the next two weeks" in the wake of Penn State's sexual abuse scandal, according to ESPN’s John Anderson. ESPN is scheduled to air Nebraska-Penn State this Saturday at noon ET and Penn State-Ohio State next Saturday (“SportsCenter,” ESPN2, 11/10). USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy noted Cars.com "doesn't want its brand associated with a telecast featuring Penn State." The company in a statement said, "As a proud, longtime supporter of ESPN College Football, it's important to us that we're building our brand and raising the visibility of our advertisers in a way that celebrates the sport, the dedication of its student athletes and the many reputable universities that field teams. We will still be sponsoring a game this weekend." ESPN VP/PR Josh Krulewitz "declined to comment on whether other advertisers are dropping out" (USATODAY.com, 11/10).
Marketing and Sponsorship
Fuse Science today announced a five-year endorsement deal with Tiger Woods that is interesting for reasons well beyond the marketing rehabilitation of an athlete who once ruled the endorsement game. The deal covers both the sports nutrition and energy categories, the latter of which once provided Woods with a lucrative endorsement from category leader Gatorade. The structure of the Fuse Science deal is also intriguing since it is an equity deal, along the lines of those that built brands like Vitaminwater, which had dozens of athletes as owner/endorsers as it was building up its brand. The other intriguing part of the deal is just how much exposure the relatively unknown Fuse Science will get out of the deal. “Powered By Fuse Science” will be emblazoned on Woods’ golf bag, a signage space once held by Buick but taken by Woods' foundation since the Buick deal dissolved in '08. The Fuse name will first appear on Woods’ bag at the Chevron World Challenge Nov. 30-Dec. 4. Fuse also has plans to market Tiger signature products, all of which are applied topically in droplets. "We see Tiger as a global brand ambassador for us, so for now in most cases he will be pushing the brand, rather than a particular product," said Fuse CEO Adam Adler. Adler said the Woods deal is overwhelmingly equity-based but also includes additional performance bonuses, which could include cash once certain targets are met.
ENERGY BOOST: While Fuse Science’s technology currently is being used to develop energy and nutrition products, there is hope for exponential growth if the delivery system could be used for markets as large and diverse as analgesics and vitamin supplements or licensed to pharma and OTC brands. “Tiger’s never done a deal like this before, but we really believe in the technology,’’ said Mark Steinberg, Woods’ longtime agent, from Australia, where Woods is playing in the Australian Open. Also interesting are two of the individuals assisting Fuse in procuring athletes. They are Chicago-based Impact Talent Associates' Andrew Stroth, who has handle marketing assignments for Bears coach Lovie Smith and Eagles QB Michael Vick over the past several years, and Former Champs Sports President & CEO Rubin Hanan. Steinberg said that inquiries seeking Woods commercial services are "starting to approach the old days." Woods signed a Rolex deal five weeks ago. He also has endorsement agreements with Nike, EA Sports and Upper Deck. Fuse announced a deal with Texans RB Arian Foster last month and an agreement with Buccaneers CB Ronde Barber in September (Terry Lefton, THE DAILY).
DRIVING FOR THE GREEN: Golf Channel’s Mark Lye said of Fuse Science, “They’re going on reputation only right now and they’re taking a chance ... and it’s still up in the air whether Tiger’s ever going to be back to his old self." But he added, "Tiger is the biggest name in golf right now so these companies are trying to capitalize on it, and if they take a chance and they win, it could pay huge dividends for them” (“Golf Central,” Golf Channel, 11/10). Golf Channel’s Gary Williams said, “Did you see that one coming? From Gatorade to Fuse Science. I can’t wait to learn more about this company” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 11/11).
Mars and Joe Gibbs Racing Thursday night announced that M&Ms "will not sponsor Kyle Busch for the final two" NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races of '11 "but will sponsor him for the 2012 season," according to Bob Pockrass of SCENEDAILY.com. Busch, who "was benched by NASCAR for the Cup race last Sunday at Texas because of his retaliation on Ron Hornaday in the Camping World Truck Series race two days earlier, will race the final two Sprint Cup events of the season but with Interstate Batteries sponsorship." Mars Chocolate North America Chief Consumer Officer Debra Sandler said, "Mars and the M&Ms brand strongly support the partnership we have with Joe Gibbs Racing and are committed to NASCAR. Yet, Kyle’s recent actions are unacceptable and do not reflect the values of Mars." JGR Owner Joe Gibbs said, "We strongly support Mars' decision. This gives us all time to work together to foster a positive change where Kyle can continue racing in a way we can all be proud of." Pockrass noted until late Thursday night, there "were questions whether Mars would continue to sponsor Busch or even remain at JGR" (SCENEDAILY.com, 11/10). Sources said that Z-Line Designs "asked this week that Denny Hamlin replace Busch in next weekend's" Nationwide Series Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Interstate was JGR's "original primary sponsor and only relinquished its role when Busch signed with the team in 2008." The company was the "primary sponsor for Busch in six Cup races this season" (AP, 11/10). Elliott Sadler, who drove from '03 to '06 "in the Cup series with M&M's as his sponsor," said, "Every sponsor I've ever dealt with in this sport is image-conscious. I will say Mars probably was the most because of the people they are tailoring to. You've got kids looking up to you because you're driving the M&M's car. That is a different set of rules than a lot of other cars.'' Sadler added, "We definitely want M&M's to be a part of the sport. They're a huge brand and a huge footprint" (ESPN.com, 11/10).
IMAGE PROBLEM? ESPN.com's Rickey Craven wrote, "Busch has an image problem. If he is to reach his full potential, only he can correct it" (ESPN.com, 11/10). ESPN’s Dale Jarrett said Busch needs to demonstrate “he has respect” for his fellow drivers and “convince these sponsors that he’s not going to put them in a difficult situation.” ESPN’s Mike Massaro added, “Ultimately, when the sponsor’s unhappy the team’s unhappy.” Jarrett: “As a driver, you’re responsible for a lot more than just getting in and driving the racecar. You have to understand the amount of people you are affecting there (at JGR)” (“NASCAR Now,” ESPN2, 11/10). ESPN.com's Ed Hinton wrote NASCAR "needs Kyle Busch. Joe Gibbs Racing needs Kyle Busch. Mars Chocolate North America needs Kyle Busch." Hinton: "Rowdy keeps you focused, keeps you angry, keeps you booing -- and booing is, after all, the most important sound, the most vital sign, in NASCAR" (ESPN.com, 11/10).
Boxing promoter Top Rank broke ground Friday morning with an unprecedented four-page insert in USA Today that touts Saturday night’s Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez HBO pay-per-view bout with an interesting twist -- an Onion-like parody of the Manila Bulletin newspaper, replete with a licensed reproduction of the 111-year-old paper’s masthead and a massive “Paquiao For President?” headline, cast in red, gold and blue. The advertising insert, billed as a collector’s edition, runs in USA Today nationally, wrapped by an additional “Don’t Miss” teaser in papers distributed in N.Y., L.A. and Las Vegas. Top Rank and HBO, which collaborated on the project, spent in the mid six figures, including production costs. “I didn’t want to remain stuck in our traditional mindset of the full-page USA Today ad on the day before the fight,” said Top Rank President Todd DuBoef. “People talked about the Super Bowl ads because they were different. They surprised people. This is going to reach a lot of readers. And it’s going to surprise them.” DuBoef said the idea was born after he saw a similar insert HBO ran in the L.A. Times, saluting critically acclaimed series Boardwalk Empire with a mock edition of a Prohibition-era Atlantic City newspaper on the weekend of the Emmys. He approached HBO, asking its marketing department to help him execute something similar for Pacquiao’s next fight. Already planning to run a spread in USA Today, rather than the full-page Top Rank usually takes out for its major PPVs, DuBoef expanded to a four-page insert once he saw the idea had legs. The stories are topped by headlines that read like spoofs, such "Roach Clips, Nacho Chips," which run above observations from trainers Freddie Roach and Nacho Beristain. “The main thing is, it’s not what people are used to seeing,” DuBoef said. “You pick it up, and you wonder what the Manila Bulletin is doing in your USA Today. I think people will read it, and not just flip through it. I don’t think you can quantify how many more people buy (the PPV) because of it. But it adds to the awareness and, hopefully, it helps get mainstream sports fans excited.”
Rolex has signed on as the presenting sponsor of a special charity fundraiser Daytona Int'l Speedway will host in January to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 race. The event will be held at the Daytona Beach convention center and will feature as many as 35 of the 42 winning cars from the past 50 Rolex 24 races. Several of the 106 living drivers are expected to attend as well, including Bobby Rahal and Mario Andretti. The speedway hopes to raise $30,000-50,000 for the Halifax Health Foundation, the area's largest healthcare provider. Tickets to the event cost $5,000 for a 10-top table. Daytona Int'l Speedway is covering the cost of bringing in the cars, which are located across the country. Track President Joie Chitwood said, "I'm not sure anybody has done an event like this in Daytona in terms of bounding up all these winning cars. It's a good cause and it's going to be a little more exciting than most of these charity dinners where someone speaks at a podium." The speedway is still looking for a couple of sponsors to support the event.