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Volume 24 No. 132

Marketing and Sponsorship

Sprint announced that it has signed a “three-year extension of its sponsorship” with NASCAR for title sponsorship of its Cup Series through ’16, according to Bob Pockrass of SCENE DAILY. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse made the announcement during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony Friday night at the Wynn Las Vegas. The original 10-year contract, worth “an estimated $70-$75 million a year, was scheduled to expire after the 2013 season.” Sprint VP/Corporate Marketing Steve Gaffney “would not say whether Sprint extended at a similar rate or if the new deal was less than the current contract.” Gaffney: “I can say that I’m 100 percent (certain) that both Sprint and NASCAR are really pleased about the way the negotiations ended up and the fact that we’re partners through 2016.” He added, “It’s too important for us as a brand. … The Sprint Cup relationship for us is not only about branding, but it’s also about the number of fans who show us their loyalty by becoming customers. Not only do they become our customers, but they’re our most valuable customers. So I’d say overall, we see this in terms of bottom line revenue to the company in terms of new customers and valuable customers.” NASCAR Senior VP & CMO Steve Phelps said, “It provides a lot of wind at our back. … Everyone who is part of this sport loves the job that Sprint has done over the past eight years” (, 12/3). Hesse said NASCAR has “made a number of bold changes over the past 18 months, from adding Chase wild-card spots, to revising the points system, to allowing NASCAR drivers to be NASCAR drivers.” Hesse: “This leadership creates an environment that allows the best drivers, crew members and engineers in the world to deliver racing excitement that captivates us every week.” In K.C., Randy Covitz noted in addition to the title sponsorship of the series, Sprint “lends its name” to the Sprint All-Star Race in Charlotte. Sprint “brings 15 to 20 cell phone towers to each race as well as The Sprint Experience, a mobile, interactive exhibit that features driver appearances, driving simulators and other amenities at each track that entertain about 500,000 fans per season.” Sprint also “showcases Miss Sprint Cup, a fan favorite who boasts more than 1.2 million followers in the social media space on Facebook and Twitter” (K.C. STAR, 12/3).

GOOD TIME FOR GOOD NEWS: Hesse on Friday “praised the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship as the best ever since its 2004 inception.” The AP’s Jenna Fryer noted negotiations on an extension “had been going on for some time.” Sprint officials indicated during the Nov. 20 season finale that they “were close to announcing a new deal” (AP, 12/2). In Charlotte, Jim Utter wrote the news “couldn't have come at a better time for NASCAR, which ended the 2011 season with a TV ratings increase in the Cup series, an exciting, down-to-the-wire championship battle and significant improvement in attendance at many tracks.” By completing an extension early, Sprint “will have at least another five years of sponsorship, which coincides with NASCAR's five-year Industry Action Plan, designed to help the sport grow and reach new audiences” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 12/4).

AROUND THE SPORT: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL’s Tripp Mickle reports NASCAR “renewed six of 12 existing sponsors” in ‘11, but the departure of three partners -- Craftsman, Diageo and O’Reilly’s -- means total sponsorship revenue “will be flat to slightly down in early 2012.” NASCAR VP/Corporate Marketing & Chief Sales Officer Jim O’Connell said, “We had a strong year in terms of renewals and people who wanted to stay in the sport -- big brand names, blue-chip sponsors. The fact that they want to stay in the sport proves what we do for their business. Did we lose some? Absolutely. Diageo repurposed its money. Craftsman has had its business troubles. But given the overall economic climate, we had some good success with our overall sponsors” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 12/5 issue).

Chevron has decided "not to renew its title sponsorship" of the Chevron World Challenge, according to Bob Buttitta of the VENTURA COUNTY STAR. Chevron had been the title sponsor "for four years, but tournament director Greg McLaughlin said the company has decided to go in another direction with regard to its charity contributions." McLaughlin said, "Their marketing strategies changed with what they wanted to do. We understood. We appreciated all they did." Buttitta notes the tournament, which is hosted by Tiger Woods, "has had three title sponsors, starting with Williams in 1999," followed by Target and Chevron. McLaughlin said that he is "confident that they will find a new corporate sponsor." McLaughlin added that in the meantime, Sherwood Country Club "has extended its contract to host the tournament through 2016" (VENTURA COUNTY STAR, 12/5). GOLF WORLD's Ron Sirak reports there "have been talks with potential sponsors and that there is a 'high probability' the event will be back for a 14th season." The fact that Woods won the event yesterday "certainly enhances those chances." Woods is "reclaiming his game" on the course, and "finding a replacement for Chevron would be an indication he is regaining his clout off the course as well" (GOLF WORLD MONDAY, 12/5).

SEE YOU NEXT YEAR: Tournament Golf Foundation announced that the dates for the '12 LPGA Safeway Classic have been set for Aug. 13-19. This will be the 17th year with Safeway as the title sponsor of the event and the 41st year the LPGA has held a tournament in Portland, Ore. (LPGA). In Portland, Mike Tokito noted the "one-year extension will get TGF through the 2012 tournament." TGF President Tom Maletis said that the company "will meet with Safeway officials next year, probably before the event, to discuss the tournament's future beyond 2012." Maletis said, "Our goal is to sit down a little earlier and hammer out a longer-term agreement. That's what we both want to do." The tournament's purse "will remain at $1.5 million for the third consecutive year after it was dropped from the $1.7 million it was at from 2007 to 2009." Tokito noted the Safeway Classic is the "oldest continuously-run regular tournament on the LPGA Tour." Safeway President of Marketing Michael Minasi said, "The Safeway Classic provides our company with unique marketing opportunities with our customers and suppliers" (Portland OREGONIAN, 12/4).

L.A.-based private equity firm Shamrock Capital Advisors has "agreed to buy a majority stake" in Learfield Sports, according to Michael Smith of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Learfield owns the multimedia rights to 48 schools, "most notably blue-chippers Alabama, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Penn State, as well as the Big Ten and Missouri Valley conferences." The new capital from Shamrock will "push Learfield to enhance its current lines of business while developing new ones, either through acquisition or its own initiative." Learfield President & CEO Greg Brown said, "It's a substantial move for the company. We've been in business and essentially had the same ownership for 40 years, so this is an important step for the company. From a practical standpoint, this will provide us with the resources that we wouldn't have had otherwise." Terms of the sale were "not released and it's uncertain what percentage of the company Shamrock controls, except it's a 'significant majority,' according to Brown." Brown will "remain president and CEO, and other senior managers will continue in their current roles." Brown said that the company "intends to specifically grow its national sales staff, and no reductions are expected" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 12/5 issue).

In Chicago, Dahleen Glanton noted Bulls G Derrick Rose will "step onto the court on Christmas Day ... in a new pair of shoes representing Chicago's 'L' train." The "Windy City," which will "be available Dec. 15, is designed for basketball, but the shoes are as much about the athlete's Chicago connection." The "Windy City" is a "red leather shoe with an 'L' map in the sock liner." The shoe is "adorned with a blue pin line representing the Blue Line and a metallic upper to give the brushed-metal look of 'L' cars" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/3).

NHL COMICS ONE-YEAR OLD: YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski noted next month "will mark the one-year anniversary for the debut of the Guardian Project, one of the [NHL's] most misguided, derided and ridiculed duds." A collaboration "between comics legend Stan Lee and Guardian Media Entertainment, the Guardian Project developed 30 superheroes based on NHL teams and a convoluted backstory." The plan was for the characters "to appear inside arenas and on several multimedia platforms." Shop NHL has "only a scant number of items featuring the heroes." The project's official site "has been under construction for months." Wyshynski: "And grand plans to have the heroes appear on arena Jumbotrons to pump up the crowd … well, if you've been to the rink this season, have you seen them? Based on the evidence, the Guardian Project was an epic failure" (, 12/4).

TEBOW TIME: The FRS Company President & CEO Carl Sweat said the company's endorsement deal with Broncos QB Tim Tebow has “meant a tremendous amount of business” and also “just the recognition for the company.” Sweat said since Tebow’s endorsement, the “distribution piece has gone from about 10% of the U.S.” to about 55%. Sweat said Tebow really “presents this brand as a proven backed-by-science performance brand” (“CNBC Sports Biz: Game On!,” Versus, 12/2).

NOTES: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote, "Can’t beat that Tim Thomas commercial that has the Bruins goalie in the back of a Boston cab, placing an urgent call to 'Peggy' from the fictitious USA Prime Credit" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/4)....In St. Paul, Charley Walters writes the Twins are "pondering whether to pay an expensive price for a commercial highlighting Target Field during this season's Super Bowl telecast" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 12/5).