Enterprise Rent-A-Car last week "inked a new three-year deal" with the NHL that contains "options for two- or three-year extensions," according to Mike Reynolds of MULTICHANNEL NEWS. Enterprise's initial three-year deal with the league expired at the end of the '11-12 season, and Chief Marketing & Communications Officer Pat Farrell said that the company "was ready to recommit to its relationship with the NHL but the lockout intervened, putting the renewal on hold." The company indicated that it "was not a matter of whether it would renew its sponsorship ... it was a question of when." Farrell: "The NHL has been a good partner. There was no harm in waiting to see how (the lockout) played out. It’s been a very positive relationship." He added that some "adjustments were made in the agreement to account for this shortened season." Farrell said that the NHL "skews with the younger part of Enterprise’s customer base, works well in the U.S., and is [a] strong performer for its operating groups in Canada." He noted that Enterprise will "come out of the gate 'full bore' on NBC and NBC Sports Network." He said, "It’s a nice level of ad spending, comparable to the past couple of seasons." Reynolds reported local operating groups "also purchase media on RSNs covering NHL clubs." In addition, Enterprise is "activating its sponsorship by dropping the puck for a third season on the Hat Trick Challenge." Fans can "play the online game by visiting NHL.com and then clicking the 'fantasy' tab" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 1/19).
Marketing and Sponsorship
Rory McIlroy caused “a stir on Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship when he reverted back to his old Titleist Scotty Cameron putter for Round 2” less than one week into his career with Nike Golf, according to Rex Hoggard of GOLFCHANNEL.com. McIlroy kept his Nike “head cover on the Cameron." McIlroy said, “I felt the greens were pretty slow out there. The Nike putter that I used (on Thursday) is a little light and it was just a weight issue more than anything else. I feel like the one I used today was a little heavier and I was able to get the ball to the hole.” McIlroy declined to talk about the specifics of his Nike contract and “whether he was allowed to revert to his old putter under the terms of the agreement.” He said, “It’s the first week out. I wouldn’t look too much into (the new equipment)” (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 1/18). McIlroy’s agent Conor Ridge said, "It's going to take time. He's got to work the clubs in gradually" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 1/19). GOLFCHANNEL.com’s Hoggard noted Nike Golf “did not disclose the fine print of its new deal with McIlroy and it seems likely there are addendums penciled into the deal that would allow him” to use his old Titleist putter. But if that is the case, then “why not ease into the new bag from the outset?” (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 1/18). In Portland, Allan Brettman noted neither McIlroy nor fellow Nike endorser Tiger Woods made the cut at Abu Dhabi, not how Nike Golf President Cindy Davis “envisioned the week ending.” But Davis said, "It's early in the year. I think -- especially early in the year -- you're watching a lot of these guys getting the rust off, getting ready for the year” (OREGONLIVE.com, 1/18).
PLAYING PARTNERS: McIlroy and Woods' new Nike commercial was a topic during GOLF.com's weekly roundtable discussion, and SI Senior Editor Mark Godich said, “I think it's great. Tiger comes off as likable. I also think that if this keeps up, Rory just might help Tiger rehabilitate his image.” SI’s Gary Van Sickle said, “The commercial is a winner, even after you learn that Rory and Tiger were never together for the filming.” Golf Magazine Senior Editor Mike Walker said, “The commercial explains why McIlroy went with Nike: they know how to create stars.” He added, “I don't think Tiger's ever shown that great a touch in ads. These Rory commercials will be good for him.” SI’s Alan Shipnuck said, “That is an unsung reason for signing Rory: Nike can recoup some of its investment in Tiger. They've hardly used him post-scandal. So much goodwill surrounds Rory that Nike is banking on some of it rubbing off on Tiger” (GOLF.com, 1/20).
CULT HERO? YAHOO SPORTS’ Brian Murphy writes the Nike swoosh on McIlroy’s hat makes it “look like he's been captured and brainwashed by a cult.” Murphy: “Rory moving to Nike from Titleist bothers me, primarily because it violates one of life's primary rules: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.” Even the “much-ballyhooed Nike spot with Tiger, while light and fun, feels unnatural.” Murphy: “Rivals don't need to hate each other, but a little intensity and dislike makes sports a little more vibrant. It feels like both guys are compromising a little bit too much for the Almighty Dollar” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/21).
Texas-based insurance firm SCA Promotions "plans to file a lawsuit against” Lance Armstrong for $12M (all figures U.S.), according to Ian McCourt of the GUARDIAN. SCA released a statement saying that even though execs are “happy about Armstrong's confession, they still intend to pursue their legal options for the money that was paid to him ‘under fraudulent circumstances.’” SCA attorney Jeff Tillotson said, "We have made a demand for return of the $12M and, if that money is not returned to us, my client will pursue litigation. He feels Lance Armstrong has neither the legal right nor frankly the moral right to keep those funds" (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 1/20). The London Times said that it is “confident of recouping the [$1.6M] it paid out on a libel action” taken by Armstrong now that he admitted taking banned substances in his Oprah Winfrey interview. But the paper's chief sports writer, David Walsh, on Friday said that he “did not want an apology from the disgraced cyclist.” The GUARDIAN’s Lisa O’Carroll noted News Int'l, parent company of the London Times, is “suing Armstrong to recover the [$476,000] it paid in an out-of-court settlement in 2006.” It is also “seeking to recover its legal costs and interest, which took the full amount paid out” to $1.6M (GUARDIAN, 1/19). Former Armstrong sponsor Trek Bicycle released a statement that read in part, "Trek ended our sponsorship agreement with Armstrong last year after the USADA report and have no plans to re-engage with him." In Milwaukee, Don Walker noted Trek “did not elaborate on what it meant by monitoring the developments of Armstrong's statements.” There may be “prominent sponsors such as Trek who may try to recover money they paid to Armstrong during the years he was doping” (JSONLINE.com, 1/19).
OWN-ING UP: In L.A., Meg James noted Thursday’s airing of “Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The Worldwide Exclusive” attracted 4.3 million viewers to the Oprah Winfrey Network. The interview “delivered solid numbers to become OWN's highest-rated night ever” (LATIMES.com, 1/18). In Boston, Mark Perigard wrote Winfrey “proved herself to be a great interviewer -- setting Armstrong at ease, never going on the attack, asking straightforward, important questions.” But the two nights “should have been edited down to one special,” as it was “a lot to sit through with little payoff” (BOSTON HERALD, 1/19). In Tampa, Tom Jones gave Winfrey an “A for her interview” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/20). In N.Y., Brian Stelter wrote the first half on Thursday “spurred a huge amount of chatter on social networking Web sites.” Research firm Bluefin Labs "found that an unofficial Twitter hashtag for the interview, #Doprah (a combination of doping and Oprah), was used more frequently than the one OWN encouraged, #OWNTV.” Data from Bluefin showed that about 61% of the Twitter comments about the interview "were from men.” OWN normally “skews much more toward women," with only 33% of Twitter comments about the channel "coming from men.” The audience for the interview also “skewed toward men” (NYTIMES.com, 1/18).
WHAT COMES NEXT? In N.Y., Juliet Macur noted USADA CEO Travis Tygart and WADA Dir General David Howman are “eager to see if Armstrong will come to them to testify under oath about his doping.” They want to see “if he is willing to provide details of how he doped and got away with it for so long.” Armstrong, by giving that information to antidoping authorities, “could help improve a sport fighting to rid itself of a dark cloud of doping” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/20).
GOING TO THE BIG SCREEN: A Paramount Pictures spokesperson on Friday said that the studio and J.J. Abrams' production company, Bad Robot, are “planning a biopic” about Armstrong. The AP’s Christy Lemire reported the two parties have “secured the rights” to Macur's upcoming book "Cycle of Lies: The Fall of Lance Armstrong," due out in June. No director, writer, star or start date “have been set” (AP, 1/19).