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Volume 24 No. 114

Marketing and Sponsorship

MLB on Friday launched a new campaign titled "I Play" to coincide with Opening Day. The campaign, created by Hill Holliday, showcases the league's young stars. Spots began airing last weekend on ESPN and MLB Network, and will also air on Fox and TBS throughout the season, along with digital and social media extensions on and (MLB). In N.Y., Stuart Elliot noted the campaign's Opening Day spot features players such as Angels LF Mike Trout, 21; Nationals CF Bryce Harper, 20; Giants C Buster Posey, 25; Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen, 26; and Rays P David Price, 27. The players in the ad who are "the oldest -- a relative term -- are each 30," including Yankees 2B Robinson Cano, Tigers P Justin Verlander and Mets 3B David Wright. The ad presents each player "declaring what he will play for" when the '13 season begins. Harper in the ad says, “I play for nine guys playing as one.” Trout: “For the history to be written.” Elliott wrote viewers "will notice that the spot takes a serious, earnest tone rather than the lighthearted tack that Major League Baseball sometimes uses in its promotional efforts." Hill Holliday President Karen Kaplan said MLB execs “challenged us to give the work a different feel and a different energy." Elliott noted there will be "subsequent commercials that are focused on the young stars one at a time," including Harper and McCutchen. There also will be "spots in Spanish with Spanish-speaking players" like Cano. MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan said younger fans "identify with superstars" and players “who are more like them.” Brosnan added the current group of young players are arguably "the brightest, largest crop of superstars we’ve had in a long time" (, 3/22).

TNT analyst Charles Barkley's "new gig as a Capital One spokesperson during March Madness may soon be bringing the ultra-quotable Round Mound of Rebound to Twitter," according to Christopher Heine of ADWEEK. Barkley has never had a Twitter account, but Captial One Senior VP/Brand Marketing Marc Mentry said, "I think he's going to (join Twitter) as part of this pretty soon. We hope he's pretty out and proud in terms of what he's doing with us." Heine noted Twitter is a "big piece of the puzzle when it comes to Capital One's March Madness plans." Capital One has been "running a bevy of Promoted Tweets that utilize relevant, college-basketball-related copy in a campaign dubbed #RallyCry." The brand had a "newsroom-styled social media team on-the-ready" over the weekend, "responding to tweets while watching the games and Twitter to pounce on real time marketing opportunities." It has "become apparent that tweeting is now an important piece to TV-based spokesperson deals." For instance, ESPN's Dick Vitale has been "constantly plugging -- and in some pretty random contexts -- Allstate, Wendy's and Hooters on Twitter in recent days." Vitale "regularly appears in the brands' TV spots" (, 3/22).

The NWSL Portland Thorns are "removing a T-shirt from store shelves and the team's website in response to criticism that its slogan 'Feelin' Thorny?' was sexist," according to Allan Brettman of the Portland OREGONIAN. MLS Timbers COO Mike Golub, whose organization owns the women's club, said that the T-shirts had "sold well since going on sale" last week. He added the shirts accounted for "half of the sales on Thursday at the Adidas Timbers store in Jeld-Wen Field." Golub said a "great majority of fans find it funny and in the spirit it was created," as a "funny, playful twist on our name." But he added, "There is a group of people who don't like it." Golub said that team officials "decided to respect those sentiments and stop sales of the T-shirts." He said that a female Thorns employee "thought of the slogan, it was vetted by other Thorns employees and then cleared for T-shirt production" (Portland OREGONIAN, 3/23). Brettman wrote the Thorns are "off to a good start, selling 6,500 season tickets -- a number believed to be far greater than any of the other seven teams" in the NWSL. But team officials said that profitability is "hardly assured." Univ. of Oregon Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Dir Paul Swangard said, "You’ve got all this momentum -- the hottest (soccer) market in the U.S. and the hottest fan base in the country. Why on earth would you want to create controversy? You don’t. What they did was exactly the right thing" (, 3/22).

Southwest Airlines and Adams Golf, a pair of Dallas-based companies, have created a partnership that will put logos of both brands on the hats and golf bags of eight PGA Tour pros, beginning this week at the Shell Houston Open. The move marks Southwest’s first foray into golf, and the airline will use the promotional tag “Official airline of golf” to highlight the deal. The airline is working with CAA Sports. Two golfers who use Adams equipment, Aaron Baddeley and Kenny Perry, will be flying on a Southwest flight today from Orlando to Houston and will surprise customers by posing as gate agents and making announcements on the flight. Southwest Senior VP/Marketing & Revenue Managment Dave Ridley, Adams Senior VP/Sales Scott Blevins and Adams President John Ward also will be on the flight. The partnership between Southwest and Adams actually came together when Ridley went for a club-fitting session at Adams’ HQs, which led to subsequent conversations about a co-branded marketing effort. Southwest will follow up this announcement with special fares to golf-specific destinations. As part of Adams’ ongoing “Easy Million” promotion, a new sweepstakes will award one million Rapid Rewards points. A Southwest ad buy on Golf Channel will support the “Official airline of golf” theme in an effort to raise awareness for the airline with a new group of potential customers. A new weekly Golf Channel segment -- “Runways to Fairways” -- will feature Golf Channel hosts traveling to golf hotspots around the country.'s Lance Madden wrote Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski's "recent partnership with Hudson Jeans and the involvement with the brand’s social photo sharing spring marketing campaign, #InstaCampaign, makes perfect sense." Gronkowski "had already been a fan and wearer of Hudson Jeans when he met a member of Boston-based Fireman Capital Partners, the equity partners for Hudson." Hudson President & CEO Peter Kim said, “We haven’t ever gone the sports route, but we wanted to stay open minded. When we met Rob and his family and all of his team, it made sense.” Gronkowski as part of the #InstaFam "frequently posted photos to his personal social networking accounts throughout the winter" in preparation for the Hudson '13 spring launch (, 3/21).

BRYANT'S BLING: Watchmaker Hublot named Lakers G Kobe Bryant a brand ambassador. The company will release a signature Bryant timepiece called the King Power Black Mamba (Hublot).

BACK WHERE IT ALL BEGAN: In Boston, Gary Washburn noted Upper Deck will release a card set featuring Basketball HOFer Michael Jordan "during his North Carolina days." The company will release "just 250 sets of 23 cards of Jordan in college, four Jordan autograph cards, one replica 1982 championship ring, and two other premium cards." The set "could be valued as high as $5,000" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/24).

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? The AP noted the Izod IndyCar Series has "signed a two-year extension with Verizon Wireless that expands its sponsorship to cover the pole award." Verizon's pole award "contingency money and trophy will be for all 19 IndyCar races" this season. The company also is "planning enhancements to the IndyCar 13 app" (AP, 3/22).