Penske Racing today announced it will switch next year from Dodge to Ford in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. Penske has raced Dodges for the past nine years; the team drove Fords from '95-'02 (Penske Racing). SPEEDTV.com’s Tom Jensen writes the “timing of the blockbuster announcement is nothing less than shocking: Dodge is set to unveil its 2013 Sprint Cup Charger at Las Vegas Motor Speedway next weekend, with Penske its only frontline team.” Dodge reps declined comment on the move (SPEEDTV.com, 3/1). ESPN.com’s David Newton notes Penske's two-car operation with Brad Keselowski and A.J. Allmendinger, as well as Robby Gordon as an owner-driver, are “the only Dodge teams in the Sprint Cup Series.” However, Gordon “has an agreement with Penske for his racing engines," meaning the move "could leave the series with three manufacturers in 2013: Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota” (ESPN.com, 3/1).
Marketing and Sponsorship
NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500 for the second time in four years Monday night, but his "low-key demeanor ... might explain why sponsors are not banging down his car door,” according to Randy Covitz of the K.C. STAR. Best Buy served as the primary sponsor of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford for the Daytona 500 “as part of a nine-race package, but that leaves 27 races without major funding.” Kenseth said, “Maybe there’s something I’m not doing right or saying right or whatever. I’ve been in the sport for quite a while. I’ve always just tried to be myself and never really change for anybody. I don’t think that’s really been a bad thing. I’m pretty much a face-value guy.” He added, “I hoped that the way our performance was last year, it would have been a little easier for the sales department to fully sponsor the car.” Former Nationwide Series team Owner Rusty Wallace said, “It depends on what kind of product they’re trying to sell. There are a whole bunch of nice people out there. But Kyle Busch and Kurt are … cussing, going nuts. … (Sponsors) love that. … That’s what they want. They didn’t want the nice guy” (K.C. STAR, 3/1). In Phoenix, Michael Knight reports Zest soap has “signed on for four events and Valvoline one,” but that still leaves Kenseth “unfunded for more than half the 36-race season.” Owner Jack Roush said that he will “field the car nonetheless.” Kenseth: "There's not a lot else we can do from a performance standpoint." Meanwhile, Knight notes Best Buy switching its sponsorship from Richard Petty Motorsports and driver A.J. Allmendinger to Kenseth before the start of the season “looks like sports marketing genius" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/1). Kenseth added of the sponsor search, “The sales department wants me to give a pitch, but if they want me to give a pitch, maybe they should come and drive a car, right? So we’re doing all we can do from a performance standpoint and it’s up to them to go out and sell some sponsorship for these cars” (“Inside NASCAR,” Showtime, 2/29).
GAS GUZZLERS: Kenseth appeared on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” last night, and host Jay Leno introduced Kenseth by saying, “I was going to do some of those Rodney-style gas jokes. You know, ‘Gas is so high ...’ I love doing a bunch of those. I figured why not bring out someone who really knows the price of a gallon of gas.” Leno: “Now, how high are gas prices?” Kenseth: “Gas prices are rising faster than the split in Angelina Jolie’s dress. ... Gas prices are so high, Kim Kardashian dumped an NFL player for a Chevron dealer. ... Gas prices are so high, on road trips when kids act up in the back seat, dads can't afford to turn the car around and go back home anymore. ... Gas prices are so high, Mitt Romney’s wife can only afford to drive one Cadillac. ... After Tim Tebow filled up his gas tank, he dropped to both knees" (“The Tonight Show,” NBC, 2/29).
Golfer Padraig Harrington is “offering millions of euro worth of advertising space" on his tournament apparel through an auction in order to raise funds to support a family member that was recently paralyzed, according to Brian Keogh of the IRISH TIMES. Gerard Byrne, the cousin of Harrington's wife Caroline, “was paralysed for life following a recent road traffic accident.” Harrington this week said, “Gerard will need a lot of assistance in his life … so my current sponsors have agreed to allow me to offer all the branding on my clothing and bag to the highest bidder for three tournaments in March and April.” He added, “If somebody wants to have their branding on the front on my hat or if they want the golf bag or any other place, it’s up for auction for that three-week spell when I am playing the Shell Houston Open, the Masters Tournament and the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head. ... I am auctioning all my spots for that period and all my sponsors have agreed to give them up." Keogh noted Harrington has deals with Wilson Golf and FTI Consulting “reportedly worth a combined” US$20M. He wears the logos for Wilson Golf, the RA, Special Olympics and GoS Networks, among others (IRISH TIMES, 2/29).
The PGA Tour, American Honda Motor Co. and tournament host organization Children's Healthcare Charity yesterday announced that Honda has extended its title sponsorship of The Honda Classic by four years through '16. Honda, which became title sponsor of the tournament in '82, is the longest-running continuous sponsor on the PGA Tour. The current agreement is through this year's tournament (THE DAILY). GOLF WORLD’s Tim Rosaforte notes Honda has “seen its investment rewarded by gaining a foothold between two World Golf Championships events thanks to the new course and the tournament’s recent connection with the Nicklaus Children’s Heath Care Foundation.” Honda Classic Exec Dir Ken Kennerly said, “They’re happy with the direction of the tournament.” Meanwhile, Tiger Woods playing the Honda Classic this weekend for the first time during his pro career “helps” the PGA Tour (GOLF WORLD, 3/5 issue). Kennerly said, "We were 34 percent ahead of last year's ticket sales prior to Tiger (Woods') announcement he was playing, and it's been growing since. We're projecting a 25-30 increase in revenues for the total event.” He added, "Even through a difficult economy, we've had a nice, steady growth since 2009. Now we're truly marketing more than just a golf tournament. The Honda Classic has become a must-see event" (PALM BEACH POST, 3/1).
THE ROAR OF THE TIGER: In West Palm Beach, Bill Dipaolo noted there are “about 160,000 fans expected" at the Honda Classic this weekend, which will be “up from the 111,000 last year.” Tournament Media Dir Gary Ferman said that media outlets covering the event “are up from 275 last year to 360 this year.” To meet the “expected 35 percent boost in attendance, Honda Classic officials have hired 65 shuttles to bring fans to and from the golf course” (PALM BEACH POST, 2/29). Dipaolo today looks at Woods' business impact on the tournament and writes, “Tiger means dollars.” Florida-based Oceanfront Realty Owner John True said that beyond the “immediate cha-ching to local merchants, long range real estate sales will benefit from the bigger crowds.” PGA National officials “figure attendance this year could increase to 160,000 from last year's 111,000, but that could be less with Wednesday's rain.” Ferman said, "I've worked with Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Dan Marino. Never have I seen an athlete able to move the needle like Tiger Woods. People want to come and root for him. They want him to succeed" (PALM BEACH POST, 3/1).
It is time to "begin the process of redefining what it means to be a tech stock," as Under Armour has become a "new tech company," according to CNBC's Jim Cramer. UA from its outset "made a name for itself by inventing an entirely new category for sportswear." The company is “now giving us what we want to see from any great tech company: They’re moving beyond their core compression business and using technology to invent new products that will allow them to take share in additional markets.” UA has introduced charged cotton apparel, which "dries five times faster than normal cotton.” The company has also introduced a line of water-resistant hoodies called Storm “where water literally rolls right off,” and a “shirt that tracks the body's natural motion and biometric signals.” Additionally, UA has “built an ultralight running shoe that packs in a boatload of innovation.” Cramer noted, “Next month, Under Armour is launching their new Coldblack technology … that reflects the heat of the sun to make athletes like me feel cooler. They're introducing a new lightweight shoe designed to support all kinds of athletes, and the company is also making a major push to grow its underwear business this spring. Plus, they made big strides in appealing to women, a growing business for Under Armour that should get even better with the launch of Armour Bras this spring.” Cramer: “What's the point of all of these innovations? The goal for Under Armour is to grab a larger share of any given athlete’s closet. They (have) a phenomenal brand, and the company wants to put that brand to work by moving into new product categories in order to vastly expand its total addressable market." He added UA’s “emphasis on using innovation ... to build out its business is the reason why we’re willing to pay 29 times next year’s earnings for its stock." Cramer: "To be fair, that multiple isn’t as expensive as it looks when you factor in Under Armour’s terrific 20% long-term growth rate. That’s not the growth rate of an apparel company. It’s the kind of growth we associate with tech” (“Mad Money,” CNBC, 2/28).
With Bulls G Derrick Rose signing a new deal with adidas that is for at least 13 years at $200M, there likely are a "few nervous executives" at the company these days, according to Ed Sherman of CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS. The company is counting on Rose "to perform at a high level for a long time," and there is "no reason to think that he won't add a few more MVP trophies to his first." But he also must "stay healthy." Injuries have "derailed young superstars" such as Twins C Joe Mauer and Penguins C Sidney Crosby. Sherman: "That's why I continue to be perplexed by mega long-term contracts handed out by teams and in Mr. Rose's case, a major sponsor." Regardless, adidas "needs a big star in the near term, and few come bigger than" Rose in '12. He will be a "terrific representative for the company" (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 2/29). Meanwhile, ESPNCHICAGO.com's Nick Friedell noted Rose and Magic C Dwight Howard are the "faces of adidas basketball and the company wants to make it clear that it would have no issue if the pair teamed up together in Chicago if Howard decided to join the Bulls at some point down the line." There have been reports "recently that adidas did not want Rose and Howard, their top two basketball endorsers, playing on the same team in the same market." But adidas VP/Global Basketball Lawrence Norman "made it clear that wasn't the case" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 2/26).
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