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Volume 24 No. 116

Marketing and Sponsorship

Zaxby's has struck sponsorship deals with 25 universities in an effort to market itself as the official chicken of college sports. The deals were brokered by IMG College. The restaurant chain, which is based in Athens, Ga., has 570 locations across 13 states, most of them in the Southeast, and that is reflected in the schools where Zaxby's will be. Zaxby's CEO & co-Founder Zach McLeroy called the deals a "monumental partnership" and said they "keep us true to our roots" as a company started in a college town. Zaxby's has developed a special collective logo featuring the 25 partnering colleges designed to identify itself as "The Official Chicken of College Sports." The restaurant will be integrated into football and basketball games at each of the participating schools with broadcast radio spots and video board programming features such as the "Zaxby's Sack Cam" and "Zaxby's Dunk Cam," as well as online ad placement on each school's athletic website. Listed by conference, Zaxby's has deals with Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt in the SEC; Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech in the ACC; Baylor in the Big 12; Indiana and Purdue in the Big Ten; Arkansas State and Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt and Houston, Southern Miss and Tulane in Conference USA. A separate deal with Clemson also was struck. IMG owns the rights at most of the schools, but CBS Collegiate Sports Properties has LSU and Learfield Sports has rights to some of the schools as well. These deals are expected to challenge the stronghold Chick-fil-A has in the space, especially in the Southeast. Chick-fil-A sponsors a bowl game in Atlanta and also spends heavily to advertise on ESPN's college coverage.

EPL club Arsenal has agreed to the "biggest kit deal in English football with sports giants Puma,” according to John Cross of the London DAILY MIRROR. The five-year agreement is worth more than $46.5M (all figures U.S.) annually. It is worth more than Liverpool’s new $38.8M-per-year contract with Warrior and “brings to an end Arsenal’s 20-year tie-up with Nike.” The deal also will be “a major coup” for Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis in addition to the club's jersey deal with Emirates airline and “will strengthen his belief that the club are making major strides forward off the pitch which will enable them to compete for the biggest signings.” Nike had an “exclusive renegotiation clause with Arsenal which has now expired and they have clearly decided not to renew.” adidas was “in pole position for the Arsenal deal and had even put forward designs but they announced last month that they would not be bidding.” Puma has “strong links with the African market and that is an area where they believe Arsenal are particularly strong and have even bigger potential” (London DAILY MIRROR, 5/8). In London, David Kent notes the Arsenal-Puma deal leaves Nike execs "counting only the Manchester clubs among their Premier League clients" when Manchester City switches to the brand next season. Nike will now "concentrate" on Manchester United, La Liga club FC Barcelona and the English national team (London DAILY MAIL, 5/8).

Canada-based QSR Tim Hortons is investing in a "national playoff deal for the first time" during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, according to Dan Steinberg of the WASHINGTON POST. The decision was made in part because the NHL "controls the inventory for all on-camera dasher board ads during the playoffs," and every playoff game has a "national U.S. broadcast audience, plus exposure in Canada." The company "already sponsors 11 NHL teams," and the deal has "brought the dasher board ads" to places like L.A., St. Louis and Chicago. Steinberg noted an ad also can be seen in DC's Verizon Center, although "outside of Virginia military bases -- the closest Tim Hortons are in either West Virginia or the New York City market." Tim Hortons PR Manager Brynn Burton said, "We're not specifically looking to expand into these markets, it's just good brand exposure" (, 5/7).

Asics has been "synonymous with running," but the brand now is "hoping to stake a claim in the booming training category," according to Natalie Zmuda of AD AGE. Asics tomorrow will "introduce its training line with a 60-second spot titled, 'What's Next?'" The ad, created by Vitro, San Diego, "showcases a dozen elite athletes who pull up, push up, lift weights and sprint while carrying heavy objects or dragging parachutes." It will be "accompanied by print and digital marketing, as well as in-market promotions, and is meant to introduce the idea that Asics is about more than just running." SportsOneSource analyst Matt Powell said that the brand until now has been "a bit player in the training space," controlling less than 1% of the $1.7B category. The training line "includes six footwear styles and two apparel collections." Asics Dir of Marketing Shannon Scott said that she "expects training will be Asics' biggest business, after running." Scott said, "The two categories where we're seeing growth, outside of running, are training and basketball. Participation in gyms is also climbing back up, and that industry is getting a lot healthier. We did a lot of research with participants, signed some new athletes in cross training categories and got their feedback on where the trend is going." Zmuda noted Reebok has carved out a large share in the Crossfit space. Scott said of gaining a significant share in that market, "We approached it by really doing our due diligence into products and categories we thought would be successful for us. We didn't just go into one category -- we're not planting our flag just in Zumba or studio or Crossfit. We'll be a strong competitor by offering multiple products" (, 5/7).