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Volume 24 No. 160

Marketing and Sponsorship

The IOC is in the middle of a review of its worldwide sponsorship program, known as TOP. During a presentation at the 125th IOC session in Buenos Aires, IOC Marketing Commission Chair Gerhard Heiberg said the organization has signed seven of its current sponsors through '20, allowing it to make changes to the program if it wishes after that year. "It's a moment for reflection and making sure we are best prepared for the future," Heiberg said. "We are looking at our commercial programs beyond 2020 in terms of our shareholders' needs and the wider geo-political ... and technological context." It is the third review of TOP since the program was created in '85. Heiberg did not provide any details for how the program might change. He only said the review will continue this year following the selection of a new IOC president tomorrow. One thing that will not change is the number of partners in the TOP program. Heiberg expects the IOC to continue to cap the number of sponsors at 10 or 12 so that enough categories remain for the Olympic organizing committees and national Olympic committees to sell. "Ten to 12 is still the right number of TOP sponsors," Heiberg said. "We need to share between Olympic parties." In addition to speaking about the future of TOP, Heiberg gave an overview of the sponsorship sales for the '12 London, '14 Sochi and '16 Rio Games. London sold an Olympic record $1.1B in sponsorship and Sochi has generated $1B from 37 companies. Heiberg said Rio got off to a strong start but was facing a tough Brazilian economy that had slowed its sponsorship sales. "The program looks very different than when it was launched," said Heiberg, who did not provide financial details of what Rio has sold to date. "Discussions with a number of interested sponsors are ongoing."

Tripp Mickle is on the ground in Buenos Aires reporting and tweeting from the IOC meetings. Look for continued posts from him on our On The Ground blog.

Tennis brand Prince is "preparing for a test this fall when it launches an overhauled collection of racquets it hopes will volley the brand back into the hearts and hands of the sport's most avid players," according to Ed Beeson of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. Prince CEO Mike Ballardie said that one way the company "aims to do that is by bringing back equipment that brought it glory." The October launch includes "updated versions of the Prince Graphite, which Andre Agassi swung in his prime, and the Precision Response, which Pat Rafter used to win back-to-back U.S. Open tournaments" in the '90s. Prince "foundered as it passed through a series of owners, and competition from rivals Babolat, Wilson and Head ate away at its market share." After filing for bankruptcy in '12, Prince is "leaner now -- down to about 50 workers at its Bordentown headquarters from around 80 at the time of the bankruptcy." Ballardie, who has "been with Prince for about a decade, sees a road to recovery that will take a few years to complete." He said that the company’s goal is to "return its share of the racquet market to the high 20th percentile range by the end of 2015." Ballardie is "hopeful" the company can generate $30M in sales during Q4 by introducing "a new line of gear at a time when most tennis companies hunker down for winter." The company, whose endorsers include David Ferrer and Bob and Mike Bryan, aims to "do this not by chasing big sponsorships or dazzling new technology, but through more fundamental changes, like squeezing more efficiency out of its supply chains and realigning its product offerings" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 9/8).

Dunkin’ Donuts during tonight's "Monday Night Countdown" on ESPN "will run what’s most certainly the first TV ad made entirely from a single Vine -- Twitter’s popular six-second social video format," according to Christopher Heine of ADWEEK. Dunkin' Donuts "will actually peel one second off its Vine clip to fit into the network’s five-second billboard ad unit, which appears full-screen between segments during ESPN programs." The animated billboard tonight "will feature a latte that flips a coin to signify the start of a football game." It is "one of four versions" viewers of the show will see this season. Dunkin' Donuts VP/Global Consumer Engagement Scott Hudler said, "Everyone is multitasking while watching TV with their phone, tablet or laptop. A lot of times, the content on their mobile device is not related to their TV shows. We want to make sure we’re supporting our TV investment with social media that’s (relevant)." The ESPN ads will "promote a Vine the retailer tweets out in each game’s final quarter this year with a #DunkinReplay hashtag." The brand’s marketing/ad firm, Hill Holliday, will "select a memorable play from the first half and virtually recreate it with Dunkin’ Donut products." The donut chain enters its third year as a sponsor of "Monday Night Countdown," though "it’s an increasingly social relationship." ESPN President of Global Customer Marketing & Sales Ed Erhardt said the chain’s new Vine play is "groundbreaking" (, 9/8).

Women’s apparel is the “fastest growing segment of sales” in the NFL, as females now account for “45% of all NFL fans,” according to NBC’s Janet Shamlian. NFL CMO Mark Waller said he expected women's merchandising to become this big because league execs “always felt that we were underserving” female fans and “not giving them what they need." Shamlian reported that is not the case now, as the team store at Sports Authority Field at Mile High is "boutique-like, with soft lighting and plenty of choices." But merchandise in the stadium “is just the first down in the NFL's gameplan.” The league is “actively" going to female fans not already attending games, as glossy ads in women's magazines feature “models and actresses in the latest looks from the sidelines.” Also, the staffs of NFL teams “more closely resemble their fans." Texans Integrated Media Manager Deepi Sidhu said the team is “really trying” to bring female fans "into the fold.” Shamlian noted that almost 6 million women played fantasy football last season, with women being the "new face of the football fan" ("Nightly News," NBC, 9/8).

Ticketmaster with its new ticket-resale system is "trying to show what seats are available in one place -- both unsold ones and those up for resale -- for easier price-shopping," according to Ryan Nakashima of the AP. Ticketmaster "quietly began rolling out the TM+ system" in August, and "more than two dozen professional sports teams have signed up, including many in the NFL." About 300 events to date "have used TM+, which Ticketmaster says is still in test mode." Customers using a computer "can see where each available seat is in a stadium, how much it's selling for and whether it's a marked-up resale seat or one that hasn't been sold yet." Dolphins Senior VP & Chief Revenue Officer Jim Rushton said, "This now allows fans to have one-stop shopping." Nakashima noted Ticketmaster, by offering an improved resale system, "can collect a fee on every resale." The fee "amounts to about 20% -- about half from the buyer and half from the seller." Rushton said that the Dolphins also will "share in those fees, unlike for third-party reseller sites such as StubHub, where the team makes nothing" (AP, 9/6).