MLB business partners are prepping for the World Series, which opens in S.F. tomorrow night. On the licensing side of the house, recent statistics from licensed sports e-commerce leader Fanatics.com show sales of Tigers licensed merchandise are spiking. Since the start of the MLB Playoffs through Oct. 21, the Tigers are the best-selling MLB team on Fanatics.com and have the two top-selling jerseys: P Justin Verlander’s No. 35 and 3B Miguel Cabrera’s No. 24. The Tigers also topped all MLB teams on Fanatics.com last week and have the highest percentage increase last week compared to the previous week (+320%). Jim Pisani, who heads VF Corp's Licensed Sports Corp., said demand has been surging throughout the postseason, both for generic World Series apparel and team-specific garb. "Our if-win orders look relatively equal for either side," said Pisani, whose company again has championship locker room T-shirt rights. "But there are still things we haven't begun to leverage, like a Triple Crown winner in Cabrera. So there's a lot more potential." Fanatics also has the Tigers and Giants ranked evenly in terms of sales potential, but notes the Tigers have not won the Series since ‘84, while the Giants last won two years ago.
TIME TO ACTIVATE: On the sponsorship activation side, sponsored World Series gate premiums include 50,000 “Livestrong-style” Stand Up To Cancer rubber bracelets for Game One, sponsored by MasterCard. The credit card company also will break creative during the game featuring Red Sox P and cancer survivor Jon Lester. Game Two sees Firestone underwriting the distribution of 50,000 World Series trivia books. At Game Three, 50,000 Taco Bell/World Series ticket lanyards will be distributed; while at Game Four, 50,000 fans will receive a State Farm/World Series lapel pin.
TALKIN’ BASEBALL: MLB's online and TV outlets have planned extensive programming schedules. MLB.com will feature daily live pre- and postgame shows with on-site remotes to the participating ballparks. The site, in partnership with EMC, will also offer panoramic in-stadium World Series digital photographs where fans can zoom in and find themselves, as well as custom video programming featuring great moments in World Series history. Choice Hotels will be sponsoring a first-ever World Series version of PrePlay, the predictive mobile gaming app. MLB.com also is planning World Series editions of "Bucks On the Pond," its game show-themed video program staged at MLB ballparks. MLB Network will air two-hour editions of "MLB Tonight" from each ballpark at 3:00pm and 6:00pm ET each World Series gameday. "MLB Tonight" will continue its postgame analysis each night from the ballparks. The network also has planned a set of documentaries and features set to air prior to and during the World Series week. The first marks the 40th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's death.
SOCIAL LIVING: Social media efforts will see MLB Network’s Eric Byrnes, Sean Casey and Mike Lowell live tweeting during each game. MLB.com plans a dedicated World Series feed of its "140 Club," channeling conversation around each game.
The NBA is "rolling out a series of television commercials to promote the coming season that builds on the league's established 'Big' advertising platform," according to John Lombardo of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. New for the league this season is "the integration of the 'Big' campaign with ticket, merchandise and other retail efforts." The first of such spots "will promote the NBA Store, with other spots to be rolled out after the season begins." The creative for "those ticket and retail-related commercials has not yet been completed." League partner Kia also will "use the 'Big' theme as part of a 30-second spot promoting its sponsorship of the official NBA season-opening platform: Kia NBA Tip-Off '12." NBA TV will "use 'Big' for its 'Big Shots' 30-second spot featuring" Lakers G Kobe Bryant "talking about taking dramatic shots." The spot also will "feature footage" of Heat F LeBron James and Thunder F Kevin Durant, "among others." The ads were scheduled to "debut this past weekend and run through Dec. 10 on NBA TV." At that point, the league "will roll out another series of spots tied to its Christmas Day games" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/22 issue). MARKETING DAILY's Karl Greenberg noted the NBA also is "rolling out a youth initiative called NBA Hoop Troop, which will include a cast of five characters called 'The Hoop Troop'" (MEDIAPOST.com, 10/19).
Reebok last week launched a new campaign for Wizards G John Wall’s new Wall Season 3 ZigEscape, and in “many ways, having his own shoe and a logo have been cathartic for Wall,” according to Michael Lee of the WASHINGTON POST. Wall said, “When you’ve got your own logo, it brightens your day. You wouldn’t think you’d be in a situation where you have your own shoe, or anything like that. It’s still kind of shocking.” Reebok is “taking a different approach with its latest ad campaign, filming a more mature Wall and abandoning the cartoons that were used in previous commercials that highlighted his youth.” His new commercial will premiere on Nov. 15 and “will showcase Wall in familiar landmarks from his home town and with friends he has known most of his life.” Wall also was “very involved in the design of his latest shoe,” as he “sought having his signature on the side and baseball stitching on the tongue and back of his shoes.” Lee noted the baseball stitching “seems like an odd choice since Wall’s career as a shortstop and pitcher came to an end when he was in fifth grade.” Wall: “My shoe is doing pretty good, but we really haven’t done nothing as a team. I haven’t done anything to make myself more marketable and push myself on the basketball court.” He added, “The shoe will start selling more when you do good on the court” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 10/19).
SAY UNCLE:ESPN.com’s Lynn Hoppes wrote “don't be surprised to see” Cavaliers G Kyrie Irving bring back "Uncle Drew" from the Pepsi Max commercials soon. Irving said, "I had no idea it was going to blow up as much as it did. It was funny that people didn't realize it was me. And, yes, there is a definite possibility that you'll be seeing him again” (ESPN.com, 10/22).
Asics this week is debuting a new ad campaign for the Nov. 4 ING N.Y. Marathon that “seeks to mix the new with the tried and true,” according to Stuart Elliott of the N.Y. TIMES. Sources said that “most of the changes are inspired by new technologies” rather than a “desire for novelty.” The Asics Sound Room is a new element that “will offer passers-by in the Columbus Circle subway station in Manhattan an interactive experience centered on sounds of the marathon.” The room is “part of a larger installation in the station that also includes a Wall of Marathoners with the names of all the estimated 45,000 runners.” The “electro-funk duo Chromeo will help promote the Sound Room by creating a soundtrack that uses ambient New York City sounds, sounds that are common to running and the heartbeat of a runner, Ryan Hall, who is an Asics endorser.” Asics America VP/Marketing Erik Forsell said that the company “sponsors the marathon to reach ‘beginners and long-term marathoners.’” Forsell added that the “target audience is the kind of people who include running the New York City Marathon on their ‘bucket lists.’” Forsell said that the campaign, via ad agency Vitro, will also “promote a new shoe, the GT series ... including a GT2000 adorned with a map of the marathon route.” There will be “commercials for the shoe locally, on WABC, and nationally, on ABC and ESPN2.” Forsell “estimates the budget for the campaign to be about 20 percent more than Asics America spent last year on its sponsorship of the marathon.” Forsell added that “about 10 percent of the company’s total advertising spending each year is devoted to the marathon campaign.” Elliott put the '11 figure at $1.92M, and adding 20% to it “would result in an estimate for the 2012 campaign budget of $2.3 million” (NYTIMES.com, 10/22).
The PGA Tour Tampa Bay Championship “will be played March 11-17, the same spot it has occupied since becoming part of the Florida Swing” in ‘07 "despite the lack of a title sponsor” for the event, according to Rodney Page of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Tournament Dir Kevin Krisle said, "We are still actively seeking a title sponsor, and the economic times haven't really changed. But the PGA Tour has a good track record and we're confident we can find a title sponsor for the years to come." Locally based Transitions Optical held the title sponsorship for the event from '09-12, but “decided not to renew its contract after the 2012 tournament.” It is unclear “what would happen to the tournament past 2013 if a title sponsor isn't secured.” The PGA Tour will “cover any costs of the tournament for 2013 that aren't covered by sponsors” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 10/23).
LOWERING THE MINIMUM: GOLFCHANNEL.com's Rex Hoggard reported a byproduct of the PGA Tour’s move to a "split-calendar season beginning with the 2013-14 schedule will be a temporary reduction in a player’s minimum number of starts." Due to the "loss of the fall series events, which will now kick off the new season, players in 2013 will only need 12 starts to maintain their status as voting members." The minimum had been 15 starts (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 10/22). Golf Channel's Whit Watson said, "I think you try it for a year and see what happens. This is a special exemption because of a shortened schedule January to September.” Golf Channel's Damon Hack added, “I don’t want to commit to anything until I see it in action and in real time, but I have a feeling that they're going to keep that number low” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 10/22).
Nike designers in creating uniforms this season for the Rutgers football team “found inspiration in the concept of knighthood and medieval armor,” according to Vicki Hyman of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. The uniforms -- part of the school's five-year, $5.2M outfit deal with Nike -- feature “ribbing at the shoulder to suggest iron plates, a subtle chain-mail texture to the pointed-serif metallic numbers, and pre-scuffed chrome helmets to drive home the image of battle-scarred warriors.” The school “acknowledges that the silvery numbers are ‘a little difficult to read’ in the red uniform reserved for home games.” But Rutgers Associate AD/Athletic Communications Jason Baum said that players “overwhelmingly love the new uniforms," and the change has had a "positive impact on the team’s recruiting efforts.” New Brunswick-based Scarlet Fever store owner Steve Ostergren said that the jerseys have been “selling fast -- the first-ever ‘blackout’ jerseys are sold out, and Nike won’t be shipping more.” Ostergren “attributes it to madness over both the new design and the undefeated season.” Former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano and current coach Kyle Flood “worked with Nike for more than a year to develop the uniforms, which feature technological as well aesthetic updates, including high-tech padding in the ‘hit zone’ and more breathable, lighter jerseys that shed moisture” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 10/20).
THUMBS UP, THUMBS DOWN: YAHOO SPORTS’ Graham Watson noted several college teams “debuted new uniforms and helmets on Saturday, and some were good, some were bad and some were downright ugly.” Boise State’s matte black helmets “looked even better in action.” But “awesome as the helmets are, the uniforms are just OK.” Watson: “Nothing wrong with them really, but the helmet is so fantastic that it needed a fantastic uniform to go with it.” Northwestern’s Wildcat helmet "is lame.” The school’s “N” logo is “a staple; it’s what is associated with the team.” Watson: “I appreciate the desire to branch out, but this was not the way to go.” Michigan State’s chrome helmets “were a fail.” The helmets “weren't really Michigan State colors (the green seemed off) and in a rivalry game, they took away from the history of the competition” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/20).
Aon, which amped up its visibility with a jersey sponsorship of EPL club Manchester United over the past two years, has added some American football to its sponsorship portfolio. With the annual NFL game in London being staged this weekend, Aon has taken a sponsorship of the contest. Included in the one-year deal is signage and hospitality in and around Sunday’s game at Wembley Stadium between the Patriots and Rams. Aon moved its corporate HQs to London earlier this year, and the company will activate with a series of football clinics for employees and business partners. The clinics will include retired NFLers. Aon’s presence in the U.K. includes 24 offices and more than 6,000 employees (Terry Lefton, THE DAILY).
I WORK OUT: Supplement company FRS today announced a national promotion starring Jets QB Tim Tebow that will kick off later this month. The brand's "Time with Tebow" effort will include three elements. Commemorative limited-edition packaging will roll out at U.S. retail locations and online at FRS.com. A national sweepstakes will include a grand-prize trip to spend time with Tebow. Also, there will be coupons for free bottles and cans of FRS. Tebow has endorsed the brand since '10 (FRS).
FIFTY SHADES OF PINK: CBS Sports Network’s Doug Gottlieb said Nuggets F Andre Iguodala said he may wear pink sneakers through the rest of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but Gottlieb noted the sneakers are “foamposites, which I feel like they’re heavy like boots." He said he likes the NFL’s pink gear the players are wearing but Iguodala’s shoes “seems like a little bit duller pink." Gottlieb: "I like the bright pink. If you’re going to say Breast Cancer Awareness Month, say it with pride” (“Lead Off,” CBS Sports Network, 10/22).
MEME SHIRT: In DC, Sarah Kogod reported adidas has created a T-shirt “commemorating the act of Griffining.” The shirt depicting Redskins QB Robert Griffin III’s onfield celebration “can be yours for $22 plus shipping.” Fan-made T-shirts “have been circulating since the original act of Griffining” during the Redskins-Saints game on Sept. 9. But this shirt “has the adidas logo, which makes it all the more RGIII” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 10/22).