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Volume 24 No. 117

Marketing and Sponsorship

Following the NCAA’s initiative to create more of a presence for its partners inside arenas, Capital One is running a free seat upgrade promotion at the Georgia Dome for the Final Four. Seat upgrades are pretty standard fare at most events, but that kind of promotional activity simply has not been permitted in the past by an ultra-conservative NCAA, which sought to keep tournament venues clean with next-to-no sponsor presence inside the arena. Powerade’s coolers were the only exception in camera-visible space. That began to change this year with NCAA corporate partners and champions being recognized on courtside rotational signage for the first time during the tournament, under the direction of new NCAA Exec VP/Championships & Alliances Mark Lewis. Capital One Brand Sponsorships Senior Dir Byron Daub said, “The seat upgrade is a nice way to get fans engaged. We’ve certainly been sensitive in the past to the NCAA’s desire for a clean venue, but they’ve done a nice job of increasing the brand presence this year in a tasteful way.” Daub said Capital One inquired about seat upgrade promotions in the past and executed some at other NCAA championship events, but this is the first time it has been given the OK at the Final Four. Capital One also ran the seat upgrade for the Division II and III basketball championships at Philips Arena, and will run it at the women’s championship at New Orleans Arena. Fans enter by tweeting their seat location to @capitalone with the hashtag #BestSeatInTheHouse. A winner and guest are selected at random. Capital One reps greet the winner at the old seats and escort them to new seats close to the court. Digital firm R/GA, N.Y., works with Capital One on aggregating the tweets and creating a digital strategy.

HOW’S IT GOING TO WORK: The promotion is supported with videoboard and PA mentions, starting at the first timeout of the first game. Seat cushions with Capital One marks and the hashtag are distributed throughout the Georgia Dome. Capital One hired Synergy to provide the cushions. Photos of the winners will be used in Capital One’s social media. Capital One’s in-venue promotion at the Final Four follows weeks of social media initiatives since Selection Sunday on March 17. Since then, Capital One has used a real-time scoreboard to chart tweets with a favorite school followed by the hashtag #RallyCry. Capital One then changes the color of its Twitter page to match the colors of the school with the most tweets. Capital One’s web-based ad buys also reflect the #RallyCry scoreboard. Daub: “Like every year, we go into March Madness with a comprehensive activation plan and we've certainly put more of a focus on social this year.” Capital One worked with Turner Events to activate at the NCAA’s two largest fan events in Atlanta -- the Big Dance and Bracket Town.

The four days of The Masters "winds up as a neatly orchestrated runway show for Nike Golf, with its top-level endorsers standing in as club-swinging models," according to Erik Siemers of the PORTLAND BUSINESS JOURNAL. Nike on Wednesday released the "four-outfit collections of eight golfers playing" in next week's tournament. The Masters is "not only one of the biggest golf events of the year, but it's also the biggest stage for Nike Golf to display its latest in apparel and gear." Nike Golf VP/Global Apparel & Footwear Merritt Richardson in a release said, "We work with our athletes up to a year in advance to determine which styles and colors they prefer to compete in at a Major Championship. We share our newest innovations for the season with them and listen to their needs in terms of performance, comfort and style to ensure they are dressed to compete at their highest level" (, 4/4). In Milwaukee, Gary D'Amato noted Nike Golf has had "scripted" apparel for staff players at the four major championships for more than 10 years. The Nike athletes playing next week include Russell Henley, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Thorbjorn Olesen, Carl Pettersson, Charl Schwartzel, Nick Watney and Tiger Woods (JSONLINE, 4/4).

FOLLOW THE LEADER: YAHOO SPORTS' Shane Bacon wrote scripting was something Nike started "years ago and other companies have followed." adidas-branded players, including Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia, will "be wearing the same outfits during the week just as the Ashworth team, including Justin Rose and Fred Couples, will do" (, 4/3).

ON THE RUNWAY: GOLF CHANNEL's Bailey Mosier wrote when you are Woods, "you don't have to draw any additional attention to yourself in order to stand out in a crowd." And perhaps that was the Nike team's "thinking -- keep things simple and subdue -- when scripting Woods' wardrobe" for The Masters. Their "main focus throughout the week was mellow, with just a splash of yellow" (, 4/3). Mosier wrote McIlroy's Masters wardrobe includes "differing colors, hues and prints that keep things fresh and fun." He will be "sporting bold colors each day with color pops in either his polo, trousers or his Nike Lunar Control footwear" (, 4/3). Meanwhile, Mosier wrote defending champion Bubba Watson's all-white wardrobe for last year's Masters was "perhaps a bit too pale for his personality." Watson's Oakley-outfitted wardrobe this year will "certainly be more Bubba-licious, with bright colors, stripes, patterns ... and some Georgia Bulldog red to boot." One thing worth "noting is that he kept a white polo as the focal point for his Sunday look." Mosier: "I guess he knows from past experience that white goes great with green" (, 4/3). Mosier wrote Rickie Fowler, "per true Fowler flair," is keeping things "bright" with his Puma outfit next week (, 4/3).

A GOLDEN LINE: In Milwaukee, Heather Ronaldson noted Allen Edmonds Shoe Corp. this month released the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Line, which "includes golf shoes, hats, belts, gloves and a stadium blanket." The collection's shoe styles are "named after Nicklaus-designed golf courses." The shoes are "spikeless and use an X-patterned tread that secures golfers' feet as much as they respect the putting greens." Nicklaus' son "contributed ideas to the design, as did other professional [golfers] and experts who tried on and provided input to Allen Edmonds during the development process" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 4/4).

Even though a "hot start has turned heads in the garage, it hasn't generated many sponsor leads" for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team Phoenix Racing, according to Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. Phoenix remains a team that "lacks the multimillion-dollar corporate largesse of its rivals." The team signs its sponsorship deals from "race to race and has found little interest from companies being on the hook for a full season." Phoenix GM Steve Barkdoll said, "We have to figure out a way to get help. There's not a lot left for the rest of the year. [Owner James Finch] can't do it the rest of the season." While "scrounging cash is difficult for Finch's Spartanburg, S.C.-based operation, preparing cars has gotten easier with the new 2013 model." If Finch could "change anything, it'd be increasing the consistency of NASCAR's governance and rulebook to help attract a new breed of owners via lower budgets." Finch said, "If you're a baseball team, and you're losing, you practice twice as much. If you still lose, maybe you need to change some players. NASCAR hasn't changed any of their players. NASCAR has done a really good job with the cars; it's as safe as it's ever been. I'd like for them to say, 'We've got to [get] more (owners) involved'" (USA TODAY, 4/5).