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Volume 24 No. 117

Marketing and Sponsorship

The NRA yesterday formally agreed to a title sponsorship deal with Texas Motor Speedway to make the April 13 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race the NRA 500, and both parties "cast their plans as a marketing deal, wholly unrelated to the acrimonious gun debate," according to Sabin & Jeffers of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. TMS President Eddie Gossage said, "This isn’t a political platform. This is a sports marketing opportunity." NRA Exec VP Wayne LaPierre added that sponsoring the race "fits his group’s business goals and image." Texas Politics Project Dir and Univ. of Texas professor Jim Henson said that there could be "other public relations reasons for the NRA to extend its reach, especially in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., school attack ... and other recent shootings." He said, "The NRA is in the middle of the biggest political fight it’s had in a while. It makes sense that they would come to Texas and shore up their position in what will be a favorable audience.” Sabin & Jeffers note the NRA in September sponsored a Nationwide Series race, but this will be the "first NRA-branded race in NASCAR’s premier series." Gossage said that he "doesn't expect any fallout over the NRA's involvement" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/5). Gossage noted that this is a "one-year title sponsorship agreement with the NRA." He added that the track normally "signs three-year deals with title sponsors, but that the NRA has options for the following seasons." He also said that the NRA "approached the track last fall about a deal, but that it was not finalized until last week" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/5). Driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said, "The NRA is our core fan base, and we all have guns, and all us racers love to go out and shoot. It's part of who we are. Anytime you have a sponsor that embraces their market and who their core customers are, it's great for us" (AP, 3/4).

PUT DOWN YOUR WEAPONS: USA TODAY's Nate Ryan reports Gossage is "considering tweaks" to the post-race ceremony after aligning with the NRA, as he will "solicit team owners' opinions about altering his victory lane procedure for the NRA 500." Winners of the race for several years "have celebrated by donning a cowboy hat and firing two six-shooters (with blanks) for victory lane photos." Gossage said, "I don't want to affect some sponsor on a uniform somewhere that says, 'I didn't want that picture. I didn't want my driver with a gun in his hand.' Even though it's a cap gun, I don't want to hurt anyone's sponsorship." Ryan notes TMS "plans to keep its time-honored tradition in place" for its Izod IndyCar Series race June 8 and the Sprint Cup race on Nov. 3 (USA TODAY, 3/5).

KNOWING THE TARGET AUDIENCE: In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel writes under the header, "The NRA 500 Will Do The Trick -- Create Interest In A Sport That Needs It." This announcement is a "business decision made by business people who recognize their fan base/membership." Whether the NRA 500 is in "good taste depends entirely where you fall on the gun-rights spectrum," but both Gossage and the NRA "know full well which side of this debate their audience/membership falls." Yesterday’s announcement is "easily the most attention Gossage’s race has ever received about a sponsorship agreement." PR execs "may say this would be exactly the wrong time to form this alliance," but if "you are Gosssage, all of this NRA heat makes it exactly the right time to join" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/5). In Orlando, George Diaz writes, "This is NASCAR's fan base, in spite of all its diversity efforts to shape itself into a more right-center sports organization" (, 3/5). NBC Sports Network’s Michelle Beadle said of the NRA/TMS deal, “It’s just a sponsorship to a race. I think sometimes we equate groups like this that are very controversial with being pro something else and that’s not the case. They just happen to be very much about gun rights. It has nothing to do with Newtown.” NBC Sports Network's Dave Briggs said the deal is "good target marketing," but he noted the NRA has been “a tad tone deaf at times.” Briggs: "You don’t think this is another case of tone deaf NRA, just good marketing?” Beadle: “The people who follow NASCAR for the most part are not going to be offended that the NRA is a sponsor.” Beadle noted that NASCAR “knows their demographic better than you and I do, and if they were willing to take the money and put that on their race then I have to believe they're not ready for any kind of controversy” (“The Crossover,” NBC Sports Network, 3/4).

SOMETHING TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT? YAHOO SPORTS' Nick Bromberg wrote there is "no issue as far as NASCAR is concerned," but "should there be?" It "didn't take a soothsayer to see how controversial this sponsorship would be in the wake of Sandy Hook." Fair or not, the "decision to allow the NRA to buy the sponsorship rights for the race was going to churn up a lot of conversation and debate." In turn, that conversation "could potentially cast the series in a not-so-flattering light of Southern Good-Old-Boys who just don't get it." It is a "perfect litmus test of that tried and true cliche that there's no such thing as bad publicity" (, 3/4). CBS Sports Network's Doug Gottlieb said, "I’m sure the NRA and NASCAR are going to say, ‘Hey look, we have a huge viewing audience that are members of the NRA.’ That’s fine. I wouldn’t do it. I think it’s bad press even if it’s good money” (“Lead Off,” CBS Sports Network, 3/4).

Nike yesterday unveiled new Oregon State uniforms and logos that “stayed true to OSU’s tradition, while adding to the look of the uniforms,” according to Cliff Kirkpatrick of the Corvallis GAZETTE-TIMES. The biggest change is a “more sleek, fierce appearance” to the Beaver logo. The school “kept the OSU and dropped the OS and there’s a new Beavers script, while the font and design borrow from the classic look of the 1960s.” The print font has “notches in the lettering to symbolize a beaver chewing.” The color scheme “remains orange, black and white,” with a metallic bronze “added as a trim.” There are three different football uniforms “with all black, all white and all orange.” All the helmets have “stripes from front to back in the center.” The white helmet “has the Beaver head, the black helmet is plain and the orange helmet has the jersey number on the side.” The men’s soccer uniforms “have the European club team look with a diagonal design on the front and the basketball jerseys have the Beaver head shaded on their backs.” Football coach Mike Riley said, “We talked (with Nike) about the things they wanted to put into it -- heritage, tradition. It’s new, but I think it’s us. That’s why (Nike) wanted to talk with us through this to tie it all in.” Kirkpatrick reports OSU’s rebranding “concluded a two-year process with Nike.” OSU liked the idea of “having a uniform look for all its teams, and the contemporary look would help in recruiting as an appeal to young people” (Corvallis GAZETTE-TIMES, 3/5).

LOOK GOOD, FEEL GOOD: In Portland, Lindsay Schnell writes the “uniform craze might be overhyped across the country, but Riley will be the first to say that looking good is important to athletes, and cool gear can play a part in the recruiting game.” Riley said, “This stuff absolutely matters to kids, and I think it looks really sharp.” OSU WR Brandin Cooks said, “Look good, feel good, play good -- athletes really buy into that. So for Nike to do this, for them to work with our people to put it together for us, that’s really special.” OSU AD Bob De Carolis referenced the Univ. of Oregon's famed uniform designs and said, “It’s not about anything that’s going on in Eugene. It’s about trying to get a consistent look for us that has a little bit of a cool factor” (Portland OREGONIAN, 3/5).

Li-Ning in the last two weeks has “begun the rollout of the initial phase of its ‘Way of Wade’ campaign” featuring Heat G Dwyane Wade, according to Abe Sauer of Li-Ning Brand Initiatives Dir Brian Cupps said that “this portion of Li-Ning's strategy is to recast the brand to American consumers through Wade's personal messaging and involvement.” Cupps adds the goal is to "Answer the question: why Li-Ning?” Sauer noted the initial spot “showing Wade's hands-on involvement, along with changing his nickname and launching the site accomplishes this.” Li-Ning's next job is “to get the products on shelves.” Cupps said consumers in the next 30-45 days "will start seeing products available at as well as targeted retailers in New York and Miami." He added a "second signature product and full scale integrated launch" will come in Q4. Meanwhile, Cupps said of Wade, “He's resonated with the Chinese consumers.” Wade has “visited before and played last year” in two Heat exhibition games. Chinese media recently has “latched on to a rumor that Wade has ‘promised' to play in China after his NBA career.” Wade also will “make another trip to China in July for Li-Ning.” Cupps said that Li-Ning is “working on translating that visit into messaging that will interest U.S. consumers, which might mean a streaming event to highlight the magnitude of the brand.” But despite all of the progress Wade will make “bringing Li-Ning to the U.S., there remains the challenge of being a Chinese brand” (, 3/4).

The Flyers last week posted images of G Ilya Bryzgalov's new Star Wars mask "featuring the legendary characters of Yoda, Darth Vader, and R2D2," but Star Wars fans were "a bit unhappy that Yoda was seemingly rocking a red light saber, traditionally a symbol of the Sith Lords," according to Enrico Campitelli Jr. of Philadelphia-based blog Franny Drummond, who painted the mask, said Yoda's light saber "was actually an orange-ish color," as he was "going for a hint of the Flyers' colors in Yoda." However, Campitelli noted someone from Lucasfilm Ltd. got in touch with Flyers Head Equipment Manager Derek Settlemyre and "asked that the colors be changed to match the original look of Yoda in the Star Wars movies." Drummond said that unless the "changes were made, Bryzgalov might not be able to wear the mask going forward." Drummond was able to find some "matching paint and went to work" following the Flyers' win over the Capitals last Wednesday "to give Yoda the proper green color Lightsaber and a more accurate spray tan" (, 3/4).

The Golf Boys -- which features PGA Tour players Ben Crane, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan and Bubba Watson -- yesterday released the latest song and music video called "2.Oh.” The follow-up to the '11 release "Oh Oh Oh" was written by singer/songwriter Mat Kearney with Aware Records. The video was directed by Ty Andre (THE DAILY).'s Rex Hoggard reported proceeds from the video “will go to charity: water, which builds clean water wells in Ethiopia.” Crane said, “I’m a golfer, first and foremost, but spending one day every few months to create a video that raises money for charity and might grow the game is too good of an opportunity to pass up.” Crane said that the video “has been ready for a few weeks but there was a glitch with iTunes that caused a delay” (, 3/4). Crane said of the new Golf Boys video, “The outfits that we did in the first Golf Boys just went so well we thought, ‘We got to keep the theme going.'” Crane: “When we got done -- we did a two-day shoot in Dallas at our house -- and Hunter looked at me and he goes, ‘I don’t even care if those cameras were turned on, that was so much fun.’" He said he and Kearney started “going down the FedExCup list and naming guys and started rhyming with stuff.” Crane: "It was so cool how he put all the names in and stuff and we just thought, 'Now -- okay, how do we take this song and make it funny?’” He added, “It was a lot of fun, and then to do it in the name of charity: water and helping a lot of people in developing world countries who don’t have clean water. We’re able to raise some money for them doing it in a fun way, maybe grow the game of golf a little bit” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 3/5). Golf Channel’s Lara Baldesarra said, “I’m glad it benefits something. I don’t think I benefited much from watching that whatsoever” (“Golf Central,” Golf Channel, 3/4).

: Kearney said of the origins of the project, “Ben and I have been friends for a while. I was making jokes about the first song. I said, ‘All you guys are doing are just saying 'Oh, Oh, Oh' a bunch of times.’ He said, ‘Why don't you write us a good one then!’ So I got this hip-hop beat and started thinking of writing puns using golfers' names. It was pretty entertaining. I sent him the song and he said the guys were freaking out about it.” Kearney added, “I just wrote it on a whim. It takes a lot to get four personalities and four managers in line to shoot a video. It was a big undertaking. But they were all in. I know it'll get some love.” Kearney, when asked about the most difficult part of writing the song, said “It was a little hard finding words to rhyme with Louis Oosthuizen. It wasn't coming from my heart but coming from my brain. I started with hot wings at Stuart Applebee's and I just continued down that path” (, 3/4).

REPEAT OFFENDERS:’s Kyle Porter wrote the video is “everything we wanted and more.” The clothing references “were terrific, but what really took it over the top were the other PGA Tour golfer references” (, 3/4). CBS Sports Network’s Doug Gottlieb said, “Golf has lacked personality. When I was a kid they used to have Chi-Chi Rodriguez as a personality. That’s not personality. This is personality.” CBS Sports Network’s Allie La Force added, “You think of golfing as a stuck-up, country club-kind of game. This is great, it’s perfect for the sport. They need that attention” (“Lead Off,” CBS Sports Network, 3/4). In Jacksonville, Garry Smits wrote, "And to think they used to tell Lee Trevino he wasn't serious enough" (, 3/4).

Time Warner Cable has signed a multiyear sponsorship with the Univ. of Kentucky, highlighting the football and men's basketball programs. Per the agreement, TWC will serve as an official sponsor of Univ. of Kentucky athletics across its core video, high speed data, Wi-Fi and home phone products and services, have an in-game presence with courtside signage as well as video and LED ribbon boards. The partnership will encompass promotional efforts across all media platforms, including radio spots during each football and basketball game broadcast, and TV spots during select basketball game broadcasts. There also will be print ads in the football and men's basketball yearbook and playbook, and a digital presence on the UK Athletics website. IMG College brokered the deal, and CAA Sports Consulting advised TWC (TWC).

HITTING THE LONG BALL: In DC, Dan Steinberg cited data from online retailer that showed since the beginning of the MLB offseason, Nationals merchandise sales "were up 256 percent year-to-year." That is the "second-biggest increase in MLB, behind only the World-Series winning Giants." Nationals CF Bryce Harper had the "fourth most jersey sales of any MLB player in that span, behind only" Giants C Buster Posey, Yankees SS Derek Jeter and Tigers 3B Miguel Cabrera, and just ahead of fellow Rookie of the Year winner Angels LF Mike Trout (, 3/4).

SOUTHERN STYLE: Charlotte-based department store Belk CEO Tim Belk said the company prior to landing the title sponsorship of the college football bowl game played at Bank of America Stadium was "doing 9 percent of our digital business outside of our 16-state footprint." Belk: "Now, that business outside of our 16-state footprint is providing 20 percent of our e-commerce business. ... We know that national TV around the Belk Bowl helped" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/3).

SETTING NEW GOALS: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Christopher John Farley noted Dr Pepper Snapple last week filmed Gold Medal-winning U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney at N.Y. Penn Station "making the new 'impressed' look for videos to post on 7Up's Facebook page and elsewhere online in hopes of drawing digital attention to the new product." Maroney at some point hopes to "introduce her own brand, Little Girl, Big Dreams, that will market products to people around her age that revolve around the themes of inspiration and achieving goals" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/4).