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Volume 24 No. 154

Marketing and Sponsorship

The NRA finalized a deal with Texas Motor Speedway to become the title sponsor of the track's April 13 Sprint Cup race. The agreement will result in NASCAR holding its first NRA-branded Sprint Cup race. Financial terms were unavailable. Sprint Cup sponsorships typically sell in the high-six figure to low-seven figure range. The NRA deal comes at a time when the gun lobby organization and gun rights remain a flashpoint nationwide. It also follows NASCAR’s effort to support and raise money for Newtown, Conn., which lost 20 children and six adults in a mass shooting in December. NASCAR partnered with Swan Racing to put a special Sandy Hook School Support Fund paint scheme on the No. 26 car during the Daytona 500, and there were concerns during the Daytona race weekend that word of Texas’ talks with the NRA might become public and harm the sanctioning body’s efforts to raise money for the Newtown community.

: O’Reilly Auto Parts and TMS have agreed to terms on a four-year extension of its current sponsorship of both NASCAR Nationwide Series races at TMS. O’Reilly will continue to be the sponsor of April’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 and November’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge races through '16. The national auto parts retailer is the longest-running active race sponsor at the track, sponsoring its Nationwide Series events since '02. O’Reilly made its sponsorship debut at TMS with the '02 O’Reilly 300. The company also has served as the only sponsor for the November Nationwide Series event at the track, which was added to the schedule in '05. Meanwhile, NOS will be the official energy drink of the track, beginning this year. This contract will mirror the Coca-Cola contract with TMS and will be through '15. Red Bull was the previous holder of this official status category at TMS from '05-12 before exiting from NASCAR.

The Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority this MLB season will put up "ads luring tourists for a Las Vegas vacation" with signage at Dodger Stadium, Wrigley Field, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and Citi Field, according to Alan Snel of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. R&R Partners Exec VP Rob Dondero, whose company does media buys for the tourism authority, said that the sponsorship deals "will cost just less than $1 million." Snel reported the deal with Dodger Stadium, which was a "no-brainer given the L.A.-to-Las Vegas pipeline," will see ads placed "behind home plate, in the outfield and as a ring banner around the stadium." The signs at Wrigley Field "will be at the player gate near the dugouts." Both the Chicago and Dallas-Ft. Worth markets are among the top feeder markets for Las Vegas tourism. Meanwhile, Citi Field is a "logical choice given that the Mets' Triple-A team will start its first season in Las Vegas as the 51's." The ballpark also is hosting the '13 MLB All-Star Game, so the signs "will be seen by millions across the country." The signs will "include mentions, where applicable, of the authority's new website," Dondero said that the four ballparks are "great places to advertise the Las Vegas tourism message because it fits into the summer awareness program of luring visitors to Las Vegas during the hot-weather months." Snel noted R&R also buys promos in the NHL "to hype Las Vegas to fans" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 3/3).

New Era has introduced "a line of fitted caps for spring training that the company says are 40 percent lighter than traditional on-field caps and are designed to allow perspiration to evaporate faster, keeping players cooler," according to Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. New Era and MLB said that early retail sales of the caps, which "cost $34.99 online, were a hit with fans." About half of the caps available on "were sold during the first two weeks after they went on sale." New Era Senior Dir for On-Field Products Todd Sokolowski said, "Even to hit 10 percent in a week is amazing, so 50 percent in less than two weeks is phenomenal." Belson notes MLB divides the "royalties from the sale of licensed merchandise among the 30 teams," and each team's share last year was nearly $15M. Discussions to introduce the current line of caps "began about 18 months ago when representatives of New Era approached Major League Baseball to discuss replacing the stretch fit caps -- which some players disliked -- that are used in spring training and in batting practice." MLB liked that the caps "were more comfortable, but also wanted them to have a new look to appeal to younger fans." New Era came up with "jazzier designs that incorporated team logos rarely put on caps." MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan said, "It has to be performance-based; that’s the eye of the needle that needs to be threaded." But he added, “Our cap is very popular as a fashion item, so these are tailored to a younger audience." Each team "decided on its own design" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/4).

Nike on Thursday announced that it would donate $50M "toward a 'Let's Move Schools' program, which seeks to increase physical activity among America's youth," and's Darren Rovell conducted a Q&A with Nike CEO Mark Parker on the topic as well as other issues involving the company. Below are excerpts from their conversation:

Q: Nike is donating $50M toward this program. What does $50M mean?
Parker: We're focusing on getting kids active in schools, providing access to sports and sports programs at the community level and expanding our list of partners so we can have a huge impact here. ... The kids today are part of the most inactive generation in our history by a long shot.

Q: How much do you care that kids are buying athletic shoes but wearing them with their jeans?
Parker: We want people to be active and we have a vested interest in the world being active, not just from a business standpoint, but from a social standpoint. We love to see people buy our product and actually use it for what we made it for instead of having it sit in a box on a shelf or to wear to and from school.

Q: Several people in the media have suggested that, after [Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong] and a host of others, that Nike should perhaps get out of the business of athlete endorsements or do a better job at evaluating them beyond the playing field. Where do you stand on this?
Parker: The relationship with the athlete is critical to who we are. Athletes are human beings and they make mistakes. We do try to be careful and we don't just look at a resume from a competition standpoint when considering an athlete (, 3/1).

A NATURAL FIT: 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick is partnering with Nike on the “Let’s Move Schools” program, and he said, “As a kid I was always active.” The Nike program is “something I relate to very well." Kaepernick: "Also being a Nike athlete, I thought it was something that fit me and fit what I was trying to do” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 3/2).

GNARLY, NIKE: In Portland, Allan Brettman wrote skateboarder Paul Rodriguez, who has been endorsed by Nike for nine years and had six signature shoes designed for him, "well understands the ambivalence some in his sport hold toward the world's largest footwear and apparel company." Rodriguez on Thursday said, "For the most part I've been able to maintain a good respect level. There's for sure been some level of backlash ... I've been able to maintain a lot of respect and love from the fans." He added of Nike's effort to enter the skateboarding world, "It's all about the approach. This time around they did it really small, they did it really grass roots. They didn't come in saying, 'We're Nike! We're helping you guys out!' I don't think the community embraced it that way. Now Nike is one of the most-desired companies in skateboarding. Kids want to skate in Nikes" (Portland OREGONIAN, 3/2).