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Volume 24 No. 115

Marketing and Sponsorship

Joe Gibbs Racing today announced a sponsorship deal with Dollar General, which will expand the company's tie-in with JGR for the '13 NASCAR season. Dollar General will serve as the primary sponsor of the No. 20 Sprint Cup Toyota driven by Matt Kenseth for 17 races next season, including the Daytona 500. The discount chain also re-upped its Nationwide Series commitment to JGR and will be the primary sponsor for Brian Vickers' ride (Joe Gibbs Racing). USA TODAY's Nate Ryan notes the 17 races is "up from 12 races this season." Dollar General Chair & CEO Rick Dreiling said, "Our goal is to grow into a full-time Cup ride. But it's a little soon to commit if that's going to be next year or two to four years from now." Dreiling said that stock-car racing is the company's "only national sports sponsorship because of internal marketing research that indicates its customers are 30 times more likely to be NASCAR fans than average consumers." JGR Owner Joe Gibbs said that The Home Depot, which has been sponsoring the No. 20 since '99 but scaled back to 24 races this season, "will pick up the other 19 races" for Kenseth in '13. Gibbs said that his team "had kept pace by trying to foster 'business-to-business' deals between its backers" (USA TODAY, 11/6).

Comic book entertainment company Valiant Entertainment yesterday announced that it will design the competition and practice race suits for the USA Luge team through ‘14. The USA Luge Nat’l and Junior Nat’l teams will wear Valiant-designed race suits for the ‘12-13 and ‘13-14 World Cup and World Championship seasons. The deal marks the first time an entertainment company has outfitted a national sports organization with uniforms inspired by a comic book character. Valiant and USA Luge will work together to create the look of the race gear for competitors in the ‘14 Sochi Games. The partnership also includes other marketing and cross-promotional opportunities. Each suit will be designed to resemble the look of the character X-O Manowar (Valiant). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's John Jurgensen noted USA Luge Marketing Dir Gordy Sheer last year “mentioned his vision to the owner of another luge-team sponsor, who in turn introduced him" to former Marvel Entertainment CEO and Valiant Chair Peter Cuneo. In addition to “revamping the lugers’ dated suits (hot-rod-style flames), Valiant’s plans include writing USA racers into a comic book.” Valiant in turn “hopes to increase its footprint in pop culture.” The company is “respected by comics fans, but its characters have no name recognition with the wider public.” While financial details were not disclosed, Sheer said that the deal would “allow the team to do things like bring a couple of extra lugers to a World Cup event this month in Austria, where the X-O Manowar suits will make their competition debut.” The design has “not yet been submitted” to the IOC, which “bars logos from uniforms, except for those of apparel sponsors.” If the organizers “reject the X-O suit, deeming it the equivalent of a brand logo, Valiant says it will go back to the drawing board to comply” (, 11/2).

Bauer Hockey last month was "on the verge of launching its first brand campaign in 17 years," using footage of NHLers shot over the summer, but in the wake of the NHL lockout the company "replaced the pro footage with shots of amateurs, which were originally intended to appear along with the pro shots," according to E.J. Schultz of AD AGE. Bauer has "withheld digital ad buys on and" A regional TV ad buy "originally slated to air during the Winter Classic in several big hockey markets" such as Toronto, Chicago and Boston is "also in doubt." But Bauer has "plowed ahead with other elements of the campaign, called 'Own the moment.'" The company is "sticking with plans" to air a TV spot on TSN during the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship at the end of December. Bauer also is "running print and digital ads in hockey publications and making out-of-home buys in amateur arenas." On Twitter, the company is "plugging the hashtag '#ownthemoment,' which it says has gained popularity among amateurs." Bauer Dir of Global Marketing Steve Jones "went so far as to downplay the NHL's importance for the campaign, suggesting that NHL content was always meant to be a smaller part of the media mix." He said that Bauer "actually grew market share during the last lockout." IEG Senior VP/Content Strategy Jim Andrews said that for "big NHL official corporate sponsors, which include Molson, Coors Light, Gatorade, Verizon and Geico, the damage so far has probably been minimal." Andrews: "The early part of the season is not typically where they concentrate their promotional and their activation activities." Molson Coors Canada Senior Dir of Public Affairs Gavin Thompson in an e-mail wrote that Molson in Canada "has shifted its sponsorship attention to 'other levels of hockey,' such as the American Hockey League" (, 11/5).’s Lance Madden noted Heat F Mike Miller’s new Let It Fly Energy (L.I.F.E.) beverage line is “the latest addition to his entrepreneurial resumé.” Miller said, “It started off as something just for me. A lot of professional athletes -- me included -- were taking energy drinks and energy shots. I try to be a healthy person and I wasn't overly impressed with what was in the drinks. So I started working on my own and the flavor and what’s actually in the drink is what I was looking for.” Madden notes Miller “worked with numerous scientists and beverage makers to create a formula for him.” Having something that was “sugar free and calorie free was important.” Miller “wanted something that would be safe and beneficial to athletes, diabetics and even children.” Miller has also "had his hands in" mining for gold and precious metals, and has owned gyms, gas stations and casinos (, 11/5).

CLIMB ABOARD: In Sacramento, Dale Kasler in a front-page piece asked of the NBA Kings’ Sleep Train Arena naming-rights deal, “For a team trying to soothe an angry and anxious fan base, what better partner than a respected retailer known for customer service, philanthropy and deep roots in the community?” Furniture Today magazine Exec Editor David Perry said, "The prestige of the NBA is a powerful umbrella. I've got to think it's going to be good for Sleep Train ... even if it's a team that's struggling." Kasler noted the deal “will raise awareness for foster children.” Sleep Train “already holds clothing drives and donates thousands of new mattresses a year to foster kids.” Sleep Train Founder & CEO Dale Carlsen said that the Kings will “donate game tickets and stage clothing drives" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 11/5).

COURT REPORT: The AP’s Rob Harris reported sportswear company Skins is suing the Int'l Cycling Union for $2M, “claiming its brand has been damaged by backing the sport as the Lance Armstrong doping scandal unraveled.” Skins “sponsored cycling teams and riders for five years, and supplied race suits" for the U.S. cycling team at the London Games. While Skins has “never sponsored Armstrong or the UCI, it wants compensation for the reputational damage it says it has suffered by investing in a sport ‘tarnished’ by doping” (AP, 11/5).