Demand for NFL in-game ad inventory has “spiked to nearly unprecedented levels” and network sales execs said that they have “sold between 85 percent and 90 percent of their regular-season airtime, with spots fetching premiums in the high single digits versus last year’s rates,” according to Anthony Crupi of ADWEEK. Media buyers said that a 30-second spot in “SNF” now “carries a price tag of around $545,000, making NBC’s prime-time NFL showcase the most elite environment on the TV dial.” Last fall, "SNF" ended an "eight-season reign" for Fox' "American Idol" as the highest-rated show on primetime TV. NBC Sports Group Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Seth Winter said that “all but one sponsor" have returned this fall for the net's "Football Night in America" pregame show, halftime and postgame shows. He added that the unit cost for NBC’s Thanksgiving night Jets-Patriots matchup is a “gaudy $950,000 [and] that broadcast is already 75 percent sold.” CBS Exec VP/Sports Sales & Marketing John Bogusz said that “around 85 percent of his AFC inventory is accounted for.” Crupi notes “all but one legacy sponsor" for CBS’ "The NFL Today" pregame show are returning for '12. Verizon, the official wireless backer of the NFL, "will replace rival Sprint as CBS’ halftime sponsor.” Fox’ NFC package “could be as much as 90 percent sold before the season begins, with CPM increases in the high single digits on a percentile basis.” Ford is “returning as the sponsor of the Fox NFL Sunday pregame, and Visa will assume its familiar role in the halftime show.” With an “estimated average unit cost of $325,000," time in ESPN's "MNF" is now "more valuable than everything" but "SNF" and "American Idol" (ADWEEK.com, 8/20).
Marketing and Sponsorship
Tennis player Maria Sharapova's new line of “luxe candy -- dubbed Sugarpova -- launches today” in N.Y., with a collection that "features gummies to gumballs (in the shape of tennis balls)," according to Douglas Robson in a special for USA TODAY. The candy line “comes in a dozen packages with names such as ‘quirky,’ ‘sassy’ and ‘spooky,’ each represented by a bold pair of lips, which Sharapova calls ‘iconic.’” While the move “represents the latest iteration of Sharapova Inc., the lucrative off-court empire the Russian has built since storming Madison Avenue following her 2004 Wimbledon win at age 17, this is different.” What Sharapova wanted with Sugarpova “was to venture out on her own after being part of numerous successful marketing and ad campaigns from Nike to Canon to Tag Heuer.” Sharapova said, "I wanted to own something -- something 100% me. Where I make all the final decisions.” Jeff Rubin, founder of int'l retailer It'sugar and creator of FAO Schweetz candy departments inside FAO Schwarz toy stores, “came up with the Sugarpova name.” He was “brought in to work as a consultant throughout the project, helping Sharapova and company navigate the industry and source the candy from a factory in Spain.” Sharapova also “enlisted Dentsu, the ad agency behind her memorable Canon ads, to help design the packaging and conceive the marketing plan.” A portion of the proceeds from Sugarpova “will go to her philanthropic foundation” (USA TODAY, 8/20).
I WANT CANDY: Sharapova appeared on "CBS This Morning" today to promote the brand's launch, and CBS' Jeff Glor said, “A lot of people might ask why is an athlete promoting sugar.” Sharapova said, “I feel like everyone needs a treat and everyone loves candy around the world.” Sharapova said she has been part of "so many great partnerships" throughout her career, but she "wanted to start something that was my own." She said, "I love candy, I love gummies and when the name Sugarpova came about, I thought this was something I really wanted to own.” Meanwhile, CBS’ Gayle King noted Sharapova has ranked No. 1 on Forbes' list of highest-paid female athletes eight years in a row and asked, “When you hear the numbers about your career, what do you think?” Sharapova: “It’s funny when people mention the money because I always ask, ‘How does anyone have access to your bank account? Who knows and who actually believes all this stuff?’” (“CBS This Morning,” CBS, 8/20).
Octagon Managing Dir of Olympic & Action Sports Peter Carlisle, who reps retired Gold Medal-winning U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps, on Friday “dismissed any suggestion” that Phelps may have violated IOC rules “when provocative pictures” for a Louis Vuitton campaign were leaked on Aug. 13, according to Paul Newberry of the AP. The IOC's Rule 40 “prohibits athletes from promoting non-official sponsors during a nearly monthlong period around the games.” Carlisle said that there is “no issue with the IOC because Phelps did not authorize use of the pictures, which were leaked by a source that still isn't known and appeared on several Web sites.” Carlisle: "He didn't violate Rule 40, it's as simple as that. All that matters is whether the athlete permitted that use. That's all he can control. In this case, Michael did not authorize that use. The images hadn't even been reviewed, much less approved.” Meanwhile, Carlisle indicated that he “expects his client to still be a force in the world of marketing.” He said that fans can “look no further" than the Louis Vuitton campaign, in which Phelps "is following other iconic figures such as Sean Connery, Bono and Mikhail Gorbachev” (AP, 8/17). Rule 40 came under fire from several Olympians during the London Games, and Navigate Research President A.J. Maestas said, “I understand the need for these athletes to tweet their sponsors and to get them recognition, but in the greater picture there is no Olympic Games without these TOP sponsors. So it’s a Catch-22 to be honest.” Meanwhile, Maestas added, “Whether it was on purpose or accident, this is one of the best things that could have happened to Louis Vuitton because people will now associate Louis Vuitton with Michael Phelps” (“CBS This Morning,” CBS, 8/20).
Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski won his second straight Gold Medal as coach of the U.S. men's team during the London Games, and the Olympic experience has provided a "large boost" to his image, according to Laura Keeley of the Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER. Marketing Evaluations Exec VP Henry Schafer, whose company created the Q score, said that the average coach gets a positive Q score of 18. Krzyzewski in '04 was “recognized by 43 percent of sports fans nationwide and received a Q score of 27.” His awareness “rose to 48 percent and Q score to 35” in '06. Following the most recent measurement, “taken this year before the Olympics, Krzyzewski’s awareness was at 55 percent with a Q score of 31 -- in the same range as Joe Montana and Magic Johnson.” MLB Rangers President and Baseball HOFer Nolan Ryan “is the only sports executive or coach ranked higher than Krzyzewski.” Schafer said of Krzyzewski, “An iconic figure, more or less. As far as any kind of negative reaction, it’s so low that it’s not even worth talking about. He’s not polarizing in any way” (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 8/19).
COMMERCIAL SCENE: In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman noted Heat coach Erik Spoelstra taped a commercial for Smart Infinity, “a telecommunications company in the Philippines, his ancestral homeland.” He taped the spot “during his recent trip” to the country (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 8/19).
Virgin Media has launched a new print and TV ad campaign featuring Gold Medal-winning British distance runner Mo Farah alongside Gold Medal-winning Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt in which Farah "wears the blonde, Bransonesque goatee beard," according to Nick Batten of CAMPAIGN LIVE. Farah has signed an "open-ended deal" with Virgin Media estimated to be worth about US$785,000. Print ads featuring Farah launched this past weekend "across a number of national newspapers" in the U.K., and spots starring Bolt "returned to TV screens during the weekend." The campaign comes via BBH, London, with "all media planning and buying handled by Fifty6" (CAMPAIGNLIVE.co.uk, 8/20). Meanwhile, ADWEEK's Tim Nudd reported Puma is the latest company to exercise their "vicarious bragging rights" of Bolt's historic performance in London. Puma has created "simple billboards and posters from Droga5 showing the world's fastest man draped in the Jamaican flag." The ad carries the tagline, "And then Jamaica conquered England" (ADWEEK.com, 8/17).
DIVING IN: In Indiana, Colombo & King noted Gold Medal-winning U.S. diver David Boudia is entering his senior year at Purdue, but he has a “set of decisions before him.” Purdue hospitality and tourism management professor Xinran Lehto said that it “makes sense for Boudia to be the spokesman for an athletic product or brand,” and there also “might be local opportunities.” Boudia already “appears on a limited-edition Coca-Cola can and in a Visa commercial.” Boudia said, “A year ago, 10 years ago, I would never imagine I would be on a commercial with Visa. Hearing Morgan Freeman say my name is crazy.” Meanwhile, Purdue VP/Marketing & Media Teri Thompson said that an advertisement featuring Boudia “will appear next week in the Purdue Exponent, the school’s student newspaper.” Thompson said, “We’ll use him in brochures and in many of the marketing materials that we put out. We try to make sure we promote that the individual has a connection to Purdue” (Lafayette JOURNAL & COURIER, 8/19).
JEAH, MON: In Daytona Beach, Katie Kustura cited U.S. Patent & Trademark Office documents that note Gold Medal-winning U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte “applied Aug. 1 to trademark ‘Jeah,’ which has become his signature catchphrase.” The documents noted Lochte plans to “put the phrase on swim goggles, clothing, accessories, calendars, drinking glasses and more.” T-shirts, hats and mugs that include the phrase “are already being sold on Lochte's website” (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 8/19). Meanwhile, Lochte has expressed interest in appearing on ABC's "The Bachelor," and ESPN's J.A. Adande said, "Ryan Lochte has to cash in, and what better way to do it than by going on ‘The Bachelor’ under the guise of looking for true love.” ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said, “It sounds like a pretty good plan as long as you can sort of keep it under cover.” Adande: “Everything has to take place in front of a camera now. That’s the way it is in 2012” (“PTI,” ESPN, 8/17).
GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN: Gold Medal-winning U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas was profiled on NBC's "Dateline" last night, and NBC's Lester Holt noted Douglas has "vaulted into the endorsement stratosphere." She already has endorsements with Kellogg’s and Proctor & Gamble, and with "other deals on the way, she could rake in more than $10 million in the next four years.” Douglas said, “I don’t really look at the money because my agent handles that or my mom, so they deal with that. ... It’s really not about the money, though. It’s about just having fun” (“Dateline,” NBC, 8/19).
Seattle-based company Egraphs, which sells digital written and audio messages from MLB stars to fans, is “being sued by a Florida company that says it came up with the idea of electronic signatures first,” according to Frank Witsil of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. Egraphs unveiled its digital autographs last month and it is “unclear how the lawsuit, which was filed Aug. 10 in Pinellas County, Fla., will affect Egraphs.” St. Petersburg-based Autography co-Founder Tom Waters “alleges in his lawsuit that Egraphs executives stole his idea for the digital signatures after he [met] with them and shared trade secrets under confidentially agreements.” He said that he “wants the court to stop Egraphs from doing business and is seeking damages.” Egraphs declined to release sales figures on how many autographs have been sold overall, but Egraphs Business Development Dir and former MLBer Gabe Kapler said that the company “now has deals with 32 ballplayers on 13 teams, and plans to have at least one player from every MLB team by the end of next month” (FREEP.com, 8/17).