Lowe’s yesterday signed a two-year renewal with Hendrick Motorsports that will see it remain the primary sponsor of Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 car for all 36 Sprint Cup Series races in '14 and '15. The company announced the agreement in Las Vegas, where it held a meeting with 1,700 store managers. Financial terms of the deal were not available, but industry sources said Lowe’s will pay less than it did during its current contract, which is set to end after this season. Sources valued Lowe’s current deal at $30-35M a year. The home improvement store is one of only a handful of full-season primary sponsors that decided to renew its 36-race agreement in the last few years. It joins Geico, Menard’s, MillerCoors, NAPA and Shell-Pennzoil in doing so. The decision ensures that Lowe’s logo will remain on the hood of a car and affiliated with a driver who has enjoyed tremendous success over the last decade. Since signing on to sponsor Johnson in '02, he has never finished lower than sixth in championship points, won five championships and claimed two Daytona 500 victories. Over the last decade, Johnson has provided Lowe’s with a high-profile marketing platform that allowed the company to build a database of more than 1 million fans, amass more than $130M in media exposure in just four years and run a series of signature promotions that helped Lowe’s launch its own line of tools and evolve from a regional retailer to a national chain. Lowe’s CMO Tom Lamb in a statement said, “It has been a great ride with Jimmie since he started in the Cup Series 12 years ago. We are proud to sponsor one of the most elite teams and drivers in racing and have a five-time champion carry the Lowe’s brand each week” (Tripp Mickle, Staff Writer). Johnson, whose contract with Hendrick runs through '15, said of Lowe's, "They are all I've ever known in my Sprint Cup career, and their support of me and the No. 48 team is second to none in this sport." USA TODAY's Nate Ryan notes with Lowe's re-signed, Hendrick "can turn its attention fully to Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 Chevrolet, which has 13 races open for sponsorship late in the season" (USA TODAY, 2/28).
VICTORY LAP: The AP's Schuyler Dixon noted Johnson landed in the Dallas area on Tuesday night before "hopping a plane" to Las Vegas, and is expected to visit L.A. today. Johnson said, "I think that NASCAR has worked very hard to get us in major markets, and people want to see us. They want to see the winner, want to talk to the winner. I think there's more interest today than what I personally had and what our sport had in 2006." Dixon wrote Johnson's extension with Lowe's is "an important early-season development in what was otherwise shaping up as a contract year, something drivers always hope to avoid." Johnson: "The stability is the key. To know that that's done and literally the season's starting, we don't have to worry about that as a lot of teams do, field those questions and concerns. Honestly, it's a great honor" (AP, 2/27). Chevrolet today ran a full-page ad in USA Today congratulating Johnson on his Daytona 500 win (THE DAILY).
Richard Petty Motorsports and Smithfield Foods yesterday announced that the paint scheme for Aric Almirola's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series No. 43 Ford will feature "Petty Blue" for 24 races this season. It will be the first time in over 40 years that the Petty Blue color will be primarily featured on the No. 43 for nearly the entire race schedule (RPM). ESPN.com's Ryan McGee wrote Smithfield "has agreed to forgo today's common NASCAR practice of rotating complicated specialty paint schemes." Instead, during its 25 races as Almirola's primary sponsor, Smithfield will "promote its five major brands with much simpler designs, featuring mainly white logos placed atop the iconic shade known as Petty Blue." The new paint-scheme plan begins this weekend with Smithfield's Farmland Foods brand on the hood during Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. RPM co-Owner Richard Petty said, "I think bringing back Petty Blue makes everything easier for everyone. It's easier for the fans to find the car on the racetrack. It's easier on Smithfield and all our sponsors to stand out. It's easier on the guys who paint up the cars." McGee noted Petty Blue was "best known as half of the legendary STP-backed rides" in the '70s and '80s. Petty Blue became "so popular that it is still listed as an official color choice by multiple paint companies." But after STP reduced its NASCAR involvement in '01, Petty Blue's "prominence on the race car declined, eventually relegated to a background color or used only in one-off throwback designs." Petty said, "I'm hoping maybe it will set a trend. I like the special paint jobs. ... But they work best when you use them only every now and then. Maybe this deal might be the start of a new trend that's really just an old trend" (ESPN.com, 2/27).
Amway this winter had a “quiet, off-season move into retail space near Citi Field’s bullpen gate,” according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. The Amway Center at Citi Field “has a special Mets game-day schedule” in addition to its regular hours. Amway VP/Marketing Jori Hartwig said that the company “negotiated a typical sponsorship package” with the Mets that includes “a sign on the right-center field scoreboard, hospitality opportunities, season tickets and ways to put its sponsorship into action.” A Mets spokesperson confirmed that Amway is a sponsor. Hartwig said, “We welcome Mets fans to check out the business center. But our focus is not on Mets fans. The Mets’ relationship is secondary.” But the retail relationship “appears to have quickly led to the sponsorship.” Hartwig said that the company “is not a pyramid scheme, as critics have charged.” Hartwig: “It’s a very outdated and inaccurate perception” (NYTIMES.com, 2/27). In N.Y., Will Leitch wrote under the header, “Everything About This Mets-Amway Business Is Just Baffling.” Of all the businesses “in the world for the Mets to associate themselves with, they chose one that has been sued for being a pyramid scheme.” The retail center is the “first Amway storefront" in the U.S. Leitch: "It's not like Citi Field is just riddled with businesses crawling all over each other to be a part of the Mets experience.” Amway is the “only one there.” Leitch: “We didn't even know the Mets were selling storefront space in the first place” (NYMAG.com, 2/26).
THE STUDY SHOWS:ESPN N.Y.’s Adam Rubin noted the Mets began using dynamic ticket pricing last season, and Old Dominion Univ. professor Stephen Shapiro and Temple Univ. professor Joris Drayer “analyzed the data from 31 of 81 scheduled home dates,” finding that the “ticket-price fluctuation varied only modestly.” In fact, the team price remained within 10% of the "original asking price.” For instance, for “low-priced seats, the team’s dynamic asking price went on average from $30.81 in the preseason, to $30.71 fifteen days before the event, to $28.68 five days before the event, and to $27.87 a day before the event.” The average dynamically priced ticket for a Mets' game in '12 was $94.80. That was compared with $93.27 for the "cheapest-offered comparable seat on StubHub and $74.19 if purchased as part of a season-ticket plan.” For lower-priced seats, the Mets’ price was, on average, "about $7 higher than StubHub.” The season-ticket price “was the best value." For mid-priced seats, the Mets’ “average price was modestly higher than StubHub.” In premium locations, dynamic ticket pricing offered through the Mets, on average, "was less expensive than StubHub” (ESPNNY.com, 2/25).
N.Y.-based SponsorHub is forming an online platform designed to link athlete and celebrity endorsers with brands as part of its new Athletes & Personalities division. SponsorHub.com will launch with 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, Knicks F Carmelo Anthony and former F1 driver Michael Schumacher, among others. The effort is an outgrowth of the company's existing quantitative analytical work measuring sponsorship impact and ROI. "We're looking to go well beyond pure data find and really use our algorithms to match athletes and brands," said SponsorHub Chief Technology Officer Andrew Reid, who will head the new Athletes & Personalities division. The effort bears some similarity to other competing digital sponsorship platforms, such as what Brand Affinity Technology offers. But Reid says the SponsorHub effort will be backed by the company's proprietary technologies and research.
The new 94Fifty Sensor Basketball is the world's "first smart basketball" and has "internal sensors that measure the strengths and weaknesses of its handler, giving instant feedback," according to Katie Linendoll of ESPN.com. The ball, produced by InfoMotion Sports Technologies, has sensors that "capture loads of data, including dribble force, backspin, shot arc, shoot speed and consistency, and how long the ball has been in one hand while dribbling." The ball transmits "all the info to an app on a smartphone, providing the coach with instant metrics." It also "comes with different drills to help players sharpen their skills and allows for head-to-head competition or virtual play with others around the world." InfoMotion CEO Mike Crowley said that "right now the target audience is 10- to 18-year-olds who want rapid improvement." The 94Fifty Sensor "elite system can run upward of $5,000, but it soon will be available for a lower individual price." The ball "will become available" for $295 beginning in April (ESPN.com, 2/27).