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Volume 24 No. 154

Marketing and Sponsorship

Bank of America has “cut back on some” of its NASCAR track sponsorships, according to Kristen Pittman of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The Charlotte-based bank last year decided “not to renew agreements with nine speedways around the country -- including four venues owned by Concord-based Speedway Motorsports Inc. -- after the contracts expired in late 2011.” It also “ended all five of its International Speedway Corp. track sponsorships.” BofA “continues to sponsor Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Bank of America 500 race, a title sponsorship it has held since 2006.” BofA spokesperson Nicole Nastacie said, "Motorsports remains an important part of our sponsorship marketing program and has deep roots in Charlotte" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/18). In Charlotte, O’Daniel & Spanberg note BofA in recent months also has “discontinued its NASCAR RacePoints debit- and credit-card rewards program and stopped marketing its NASCAR-themed cards and accounts.” The move “underscores a newfound devotion to shedding expenses and refocusing customer targets at the nation’s second-largest bank.” Sources said that BofA's racing cutbacks "offer yet another example of leaner sponsorship investments throughout the sport.” The bank “no longer lists its NASCAR Banking checking accounts or its NASCAR credit cards on its website.” But Nastacie said that BofA “has not discontinued the program.” She said that the NASCAR products are instead “still available by special request,” and are “just temporarily not being marketed.” Nastacie added that the bank “isn’t backing away from its support of NASCAR.” BofA last year “renewed its deal as the official bank of the sanctioning body.” It is also a sponsor at the NASCAR HOF, where “it hosted several events for students during last year’s Bank of America 500” (CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/16 issue).

MLS has hired Sid Lee, Montreal, as its "new advertising agency of record," according to Terry Lefton in this week’s SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The move is part of an "overall marketing ramp-up" by MLS under interim CMO Howard Handler. Handler said that Sid Lee was "developing a new campaign for the league and its clubs, along with supporting brand work," but added that it was "too early to say when consumers will see new creative work." Handler: "The overall charge for the agency will be to grow the MLS footprint and develop the stature and breadth of the brand." Lefton notes the new agency assignment comes as MLS is "making changes in its marketing department." Handler said that he will "soon hire four new positions at or close to the vice president level," with separate responsibilities for strategy and planning, research, brand development and club services. The new MLS marketing hires come after the recent "completion of the sale of an equity stake in Soccer United Marketing to Providence Equity Partners" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/19 issue).

Panini America will announce at today’s Industry Summit in Las Vegas that it has added USA Baseball to its roster of U.S. trading-card licenses. As the official trading card, Panini gets rights to USA Baseball marks and national team players, which will initially be used in an October "Prime Cuts" release. Panini will also produce the annual USA Baseball national team's box set. Starting in '13, Panini will sell a set with top USA Baseball players -- current and retired -- which will include autographs and memorabilia. Adding baseball's NGB to its collection of rights complements the MLBPA rights Panini acquired last year. Topps has had the exclusive MLB card license since '10. Topps is also the USOC's exclusive trading card licensee, although Panini has rights for USA Basketball and the U.S. women's national soccer team.

The Univ. of North Carolina's contracts with Nike and Learfield Sports contain clauses "that allow the companies to pay UNC less" for being banned from playing in a bowl game, and those clauses "could cut the department's revenue enough to put its budget in the red for the better part of a decade," according to Melvin Backman of UNC student newspaper the DAILY TAR HEEL. The two companies "are unlikely to cut their funding to UNC," but the possibilities represent an "additional liability for the University created by the football scandal." UNC is banned from playing in a bowl game during the '12 season and will lose 15 scholarships over three years as a result of NCAA violations put on the football program. Nike gives UNC more than $3M in gear annually and pays the school $250,000 "each year for the exposure Tar Heel athletes provide." However, it also retains the right to reduce that $250,000 "in the event of a postseason ban" in football, men's basketball, women's basketball or women's soccer. The bowl ban "gives Nike the opportunity to reduce its payment to UNC by 35 percent." A postseason ban in men's basketball "would allow a 60 percent reduction." Nike did not comment on any potential action it might take. However, the loss of money from Nike "pales in comparison to what could come from Learfield Sports." The school's contract with Learfield has a bowl-ban clause allowing the company to "pay UNC less money over the life of the contract if an NCAA punishment decreases revenues to football or men's basketball by more than 5 percent over three years." The reduction amount from Learfield Sports "is negotiable." A reduction of 3% would be "$200,000 at least," which would eliminate the athletic department's surplus "regardless of whether Nike pursues its reduction option" (DAILY TAR HEEL, 3/16).

GOLF WORLD MONDAY's Geoff Shackelford reports Fry's Electronics CEO John Fry and Open Tournament Chair Kathy Kolder wrote a letter to PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem in which they explain their "'concern about continuing our sponsorship' if a proposal to only award half-FedEx Cup points for fall events is given approval." A proposal currently before the PGA Tour's Player Advisory Council "calls for the schedule to begin just weeks after the Tour Championship and a newly proposed playoff between top Nationwide Tour members and non-top 125 PGA Tour players." The 16-member PAC "recently endorsed the schedule revamp in large part because of suggestions by tour brass that events" such as the "might go away if those tournaments were not added" to the FedEx Cup schedule. However, with one of those sponsors "balking at half the points available compared to most other tour stops, it would appear the Policy Board has much more to consider before casting its vote for a major change to the PGA Tour as we know it" (GOLF WORLD MONDAY, 3/19).

WITHOUT A SPONSOR:'s Farrell Evans noted Transitions Optical "ended its four-year sponsorship of the Transitions Championship" on Sunday. The Copperheads, the organization that runs the tournament, "hosted potential title sponsors at the event this week." Right now, the event at Innisbrook Resort outside of Tampa is the "only tournament on the PGA Tour schedule without a title sponsor" for '13. If the tournament "can't find a sponsor, the PGA Tour could underwrite it in the near future or it could go away all together." Evans wrote it would be a "shame to lose such a popular event in this golf-rich part of southern Florida" (, 3/18).

CONFIDENT IN AN EXTENSION: In San Diego, Tod Leonard notes Kia’s agreement to sponsor this week's LPGA Kia Classic at La Costa Resort & Spa "ends with this year’s tournament, but the Korean auto maker has upped its support of the LPGA, becoming the tour’s official car." Tournament Dir Dennis Baggett is "confident an extension can be accomplished" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/19).

In this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, Terry Lefton reports NFL coaches’ headsets “will be festooned with different logos next season, as Motorola is out as a league sponsor after 13 years.” Sources said that Motorola “had an offer on the table of about $50 million a year over five years, roughly 25 percent more than its prior deal, but could not reach agreement with the NFL on pricing and value.” Members of the league’s business ventures committee were told recently that Motorola "was not renewing." Club marketers contacted “had not been informed of the move, or told whether any of the inventory would now revert to team control.” Research firm Repucom estimated that based solely on TV exposure, the value of NFL coaches’ headsets for the ‘11-12 season was at “$90 million, and, of course, the deal included more than just NFL sideline exposure” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/19 issue).

: In Detroit, Dale Buss notes Michigan State men's basketball coach Tom Izzo during the NCAA men's basketball tournament is joining familiar pitchmen,” including TNT NBA analyst Shaquille O'Neal and Basketball HOFer Magic Johnson, “to promote Dove's theme of being comfortable in your own skin.” Fans will get “glimpses of how Izzo prepares for March Madness with his wife, Lupe, and his thoughts about why he loves this month.” He also “talks about his kids in the series of spots” (DETROIT NEWS, 3/16).

FASHION FORWARD: In N.Y., Ben Rothenberg wrote BNP Paribas Open winner Victoria Azarenka yesterday “rarely looked threatened” and her wardrobe choices in the news conferences “reflected this confidence all week.” Having previously worn a Nike shirt that simply said, “Best is Best,” after the final she wore a red jacket with “AZARENKA” written on the back and “VIKA 1” on the front, over a shirt that read “Unstoppable Skills” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/19).

LIEUTENANT DENG: In Chicago, Brigid Sweeney wrote Comcast SportsNet Chicago Bulls analyst Stacey King is “putting his best work on T-shirts.” A collection of his sayings “has been on the Bulls' website since last summer, but Mr. King only started selling the shirts under the label 21King at the beginning of this year." King said it started "kind of on a whim." The idea “has paid off: In January and February alone, Mr. King's line sold 38,000 shirts.” Sweeney noted a “slew of new sayings and designs were just added” last week (, 3/16).