The U.S. arm of Swedish car brand Volvo has reached an endorsement agreement with Knicks G Jeremy Lin that will “cover several international markets but focus on the U.S. and China,” according to Norihiko Shirouzu of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The company announced that Lin over the next two years will “participate in Volvo's corporate and marketing activities as a 'brand ambassador.'" The deal with Volvo “marks one of the first major corporate contracts” for Lin. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Volvo Senior VP & Chair of China Operations Freeman Shen said that hiring Lin was “an important part of Volvo's ‘brand rejuvenation,’ showcasing the new Volvo brand strategy ‘Designed Around You’ with ‘sportsmanship and intelligence’" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/20). BLOOMBERG NEWS’ Erik Matuszewski notes Lin “will appear in his first television commercials for Volvo after the NBA season ends.” Volvo said that he will be “used in promotional materials immediately” (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 3/20). USA TODAY’s Michael McCarthy writes the Volvo deal “could just be the beginning for the undrafted Harvard grad on Madison Avenue.” Webster Univ. economics professor Patrick Rishe said that Lin could “reap $12 million to $15 million from endorsements -- but only if he continues to start for the Knicks” (USA TODAY, 3/20). YAHOO SPORTS’ Kelly Dwyer wrote Lin "seems like the perfect spokesman.” Dwyer: “It's an odd choice, as his first move into the realm of the major endorser, but one that's as unique as Lin's gifts and move into the NBA's upper strata. Unorthodox-y, but good” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/19).
LINSANITY CONTINUES: MARKETWATCH’s Andria Cheng notes while the atmosphere of Linsanity surrounding him may have “died down somewhat on the hardwood, on the commercial side there still appears to be plenty of passion.” Since Lin’s Feb. 4 breakout game, sales at online Knicks-linked stores -- which “carry about 50 Lin-related items -- have surged fortyfold.” MSG officials said that sales at the arena are up 70%, with Lin-related gear “accounting for about half of online sales and about a third of in-arena sales.” The NBA reported that Lin’s jersey has been the league’s “top seller for well over a month, catapulting sales of Knicks team gear to the top spot.” Nike said that it is “discussing opportunities for a longer-range marketing plan for Lin that could include footwear and appearances” (MARKETWATCH.com, 3/20). The N.Y. Daily News’ Bob Raissman said, “There is another side to Linsanity, to Jeremy Lin, that is probably more important to the Garden. I know winning is what drives it, but this guy’s made (Knicks Owner) James Dolan more money in the time he’s been playing. He got the (MSG-Time Warner) cable deal done. That’s more than $10 million a month. He’s got the TV ratings up, which translates into ad sales. So they don’t want to see him phased out” (“Daily News Live,” SportsNet N.Y., 3/16).
Kohl’s department stores yesterday announced its spring integrated marketing campaign, featuring U.S. Gold Medalists Dara Torres (swimming), Mia Hamm (soccer) and Lindsey Vonn (skiing). The new campaign, titled “Shop to Win,” debuted yesterday and follows each of the three female athletes during recent Kohl's shopping trips. It is the first time Kohl’s has used Olympic athletes in its marketing efforts (Kohl’s). USA TODAY’s Roxanna Scott noted the campaign is targeted at “suburban moms shopping for themselves and their families.” All three women are “top names in the sports marketing and sponsorship world.” But Forbes noted that “none cracked the top 10 for leading female highest-paid athletes” in ’11 (USATODAY.com, 3/19).
MOMMY DEAREST: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL’s Tripp Mickle notes Gold medal-winning beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh, who has two children under the age of two, recently signed a deal “based on Walsh’s motherhood: a Pampers endorsement for Walsh to promote USA-branded diapers and wipes.” Walsh is “not the only female athlete” making pitches to mothers, as Torres, U.S. women’s soccer D Christie Rampone, and swimmers Amanda Beard and Janet Evans have “all turned their role as mothers into endorsements with companies ranging from Buy Buy Baby to Jersey Mike’s, and from Evofem to McDonald’s.” Sandwich chain Jersey Mike’s, which “signed a three-year deal with Rampone, plans to use her to promote the chain’s offering of fast but healthy food to soccer moms and parents on the go.” CMOs at Jersey Mike’s and beverage and dietary supplement company FRS said that Rampone’s role as a mother of two “was critical to their decision" to sign her. Mickle notes Olympic sponsors “began making a concerted effort to tap into the expanded purchasing power of moms” in ’08 (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/19 issue).
NASCAR is “planning to launch an agency review as it seeks a shop that can help increase its fan base among youth and multicultural audiences,” according to Jason Del Rey of AD AGE. The review follows the arrival last fall of NASCAR's Managing Dir of Brand & Consumer Marketing Kim Brink, who previously served as Cadillac Exec Dir of Advertising & Sales Promotion. Brink said that the incumbent agency, St. Louis-based Jump Co., which has worked with NASCAR since ‘05, will “be invited to participate.” Jump will “face off against three or four other shops.” Brink said that the “ideal agency will also have sports experience, a passion for NASCAR specifically, and demonstrated success in leading a transformation of a similar organization.” Brink said the budget will be "way north" of the $24M NASCAR spent on measured media in ‘11. Brink: "It's bigger than the fee pay or media dollars against it. It's a very ripe place for (the agency) to demonstrate their capabilities to all the Fortune 500 companies involved with NASCAR." Del Rey notes the pitch process “won't begin in earnest until June” (ADAGE.com, 3/20).
In Denver, Ann Schrader notes free agent QB Peyton Manning's presumed arrival in the city “will attract the national spotlight and millions of dollars in economic activity from ticket sales, media revenue, higher local TV and radio ad rates, stadium revenues, licensing fees and merchandise.” The Denver Chamber of Commerce “plans to conduct a study of Manning's economic impact that will probably start in July.” Signals have “quickly emerged that demand for Manning merchandise will be strong.” The Sportsfan store on the 16th Street Mall was “barely open an hour Monday when a half-dozen people had stopped in to ask for Manning's Broncos jersey” (DENVER POST, 3/20).
HOME RUN: ADWEEK’s Anthony Crupi reported with three weeks to go before opening day, YES’ Yankees inventory “is 60 percent sold out.” Tri-State Ford is “back as the presenting sponsor of YES’ pregame show, and Audi will again step up to the plate” with “Yankees Batting Practice Today.” Other returning clients include “W.B. Mason, Toyota, Lexus and Chevrolet.” Rates are “up in the low double digits versus last season’s performance.” SportsNet N.Y. is “enjoying a balmy spring, signing on new clients like Buffalo Wild Wings and landing W.B. Mason as its postgame sponsor” (ADWEEK.com, 3/19).
DUE DILIGENCE: TNT NBA analyst Shaquille O’Neal in a recent interview with INC. magazine was asked what he brings to the table that “isn’t so obvious” when considering investing in business ventures. O’Neal: “The biggest surprise is that I do my due diligence ahead of time. If you contact me, I do my homework. Then, if I like your idea or your company or your product, I’m not really looking for an endorsement deal. I want a partnership. You get a great partner when you get me. I’m not interested in just taking your money. I’ll promote, I’ll help, I’ll do anything I can to make it work for both of us.” O’Neal said of the strangest pitch he ever received, “A guy wanted to take my sweat, mix it with chemicals and create a cologne, and call it something like Elliuqahs (Shaquille spelled backwards.) Needless to say I turned that one down” (INC.com, 3/14).