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Volume 24 No. 155

Marketing and Sponsorship

MLS DC United is teaming up with DC Health Link to "spread the word about coverage options" for the Affordable Care Act, which opens in three weeks, according to Jason Millman of POLITICO. Health Link "disclosed the plans in a Wednesday night board meeting." DC United is the "second professional sports franchise to join the Obamacare team, a week after Maryland’s health exchange announced plans" to partner with the Ravens. But unlike the Ravens, DC's exchange "will have a visible association with United." Health Link "plans to kick off the United partnership at an Oct. 4 home game" against the Fire. Partnership plans "include an on-field presence, a public address announcement and ... some tailgating at RFK Stadium" (, 9/11). City officials said that they reached out to DC United "because its fan base largely falls within the 'young invincible' group that is vital to helping the Affordable Care Act succeed." In DC, Tom Howell Jr. cites data which shows that approximately two-thirds of the team’s fans are between the ages of 18 and 44, 26% are Hispanic and 22% are black, "making this an important avenue to reach uninsured/underinsured populations." DC Health Link will promote the plan "throughout October and use United players in promotional materials" (, 9/12). Powell Tate Senior VP/Management Supervisor Emil Hill, whose team developed the marketing strategy, said, "We've been talking to the Washington Wizards, we reached out to the Redskins. (But those) are kind of costly" (, 9/12).

NHRA team owner and driver John Force on Thursday announced an aggressive marketing strategy aimed at combating the loss of longtime manufacturer Ford and sponsor Castrol following the '14 season. Force has partnered with motorsports firm Just Marketing Int’l (JMI) to help find a primary sponsor, and hired entertainment group Rogers & Cowan, as well as Octagon Entertainment in an effort to bring back “Driving Force,” a reality show about his family which ran in ’06-07 on A&E. “We have to move and we have to move fast,” Force said. “We’ve got to go chasing corporate America. We have to build the brand of John Force Racing and all the drivers, and Hollywood can make that happen.” Force noted a show about him -- and his NHRA driving daughters Brittany and Courtney -- could be invaluable to finding new sponsors. “I had raced for 20 years and I would come into the airport and race fans would know who John Force was from ESPN or Speed Channel. Then we get a TV show, and a year later my kids walk out of an airplane and the crowd surrounds them. What happened in a year that took me 20 years?” Force has received offers from a number of networks to carry the '14 show, which will air under a new name. Meanwhile, Courtney Force, who recently appeared in ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue, thinks expanding the JFR brand can also be done outside the racing industry. “If we can cross over into magazines like Vogue and Glamour … anything we can do with them would be amazing for our sport,” she said. “We can tell girls what kind of makeup they should be wearing but we can also tell the guys what kind of oil they should be using on their motors.” JFR took out a full-page ad in Friday's USA Today looking for sponsors (Josh Carpenter, Staff Writer).

UNSTOPPABLE FORCE? USA TODAY's Jeff Olson noted it is "unlikely that Force and his team will have trouble finding a new manufacturer and primary sponsor, but the assertive moves are intended to capitalize on the mainstream popularity of the 15-time Funny Car champion and his daughters." Force said that depending on future sponsorship, he "could end up driving a Top Fuel car" in '15. Force also "hinted that his team may start building cars for other NHRA teams, or even fabricating NASCAR Sprint Cup cars or other race vehicles in his Brownsburg, Ind., shop." JFR PR Dir Elon Werner "estimates JFR's annual backing from Ford" is $8M -- 40% of the team's annual $20M budget (, 9/12). In California, Louis Brewster noted Force has "reached beyond the traditional market of sponsors by signing Auto Club, Traxxas and Brand Source." He also said Thursday that Auto Club had "extended its deal with JFR and driver Robert Hight for another five years" (, 9/12).

Mexican boxer Canelo Alvarez is "already an idol in his native land and can become something much more Saturday night when he faces Floyd Mayweather" at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, according to George Willis of the N.Y. POST. Alvarez' "pale skin, ginger locks and aggressive ring style made him an instant media darling in Mexico," and his "good looks attract a female audience" the way Golden Boy Promotions President Oscar De La Hoya once did. There is a "regal appearance to Alvarez, perpetually poised and in charge." Part of the reason Saturday's fight is "so anticipated is the presence of Mayweather, boxing’s brash anti-hero." However, it also is a "credit to the rising star of Alvarez." Showtime Sports Exec VP & GM Stephen Espinoza said of Alvarez, "He’s got the ‘It’ factor." Willis notes for a pro athlete to become "fully marketable in the U.S., it’s said he or she needs to speak English." Alvarez has "been working diligently to learn English." Espinoza said that it "shouldn’t be long before Alvarez is comfortable speaking English and comes close to being as big a star stateside as he already is in Mexico" (N.Y. POST, 9/13). Mexico-based TV station Televisa Dir of Operations Alberto Sosa said that he expects the fight to be "one of the most widely viewed events in the country's television history." Espinoza said, "The last time you saw this in this country with a Mexican-born athlete was probably Fernando Valenzuela. It's a similar-type hysteria in the Mexican audience" (L.A. TIMES, 9/13). Meanwhile, Under Armour has seen Alvarez merchandise rise to the top of its online sales chart, moving more than 15,000 graphic tees that showcase the boxer. Alvarez, who signed with the company early in '12, will unveil a new Under Armour boxing boot during Saturday's fight (Bill King, Senior Staff Writer).

: In California, Robert Morales writes Mayweather has "big-mouthed his way into becoming the highest-paid athlete in the world ... with his ultra-cocky persona and major-league bling." He has "started his own promotional company -- Mayweather Promotions -- and his own line of TMT (The Money Team) clothing apparel." Mayweather said of his persona, "The thing is this: Everything was a business plan. My business plan was to be very, very entertaining, be very wild, turn it on when it’s time to turn it on, turn it off when it’s time to turn it off, and that’s what I did. I built my fan base. I became a mega-star. I became a household name. That was the ultimate goal. It was just a business plan that I had, you know what I’m saying? There’s nothing fake, but you got to know when to turn it on and when to turn it off." Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer said of Mayweather, "He has become the best and most clever self-marketer in the sport of boxing and, for that matter, probably any sport. No other names come to mind who markets himself the way Floyd does" (Long Beach PRESS-TELEGRAM, 9/13).

PPV RECORD COULD BE SMASHED: YAHOO SPORTS' Kevin Iole wrote Schaefer "will likely earn windfall profits for his company" because Saturday's fight is a "potentially record-setting pay-per-view bout." There has been "exactly one fight in boxing history that has exceeded 2 million pay-per-view sales" -- the '07 Mayweather-De La Hoya bout -- and that number is "being talked about as a low-end for the final sales figure for this fight" (, 9/12). Schaefer said of the fight's PPV buys, "My goal is to break the record. I think we will do 2 million homes which will make it the single biggest pay-per-view in boxing." The AP's Tim Dahlberg writes that is due largely to Golden Boy "charging the single biggest price ever for a boxing match, a whopping $74.95 if you want to watch in HD." Schaefer: "Saturday could be a $200 million night. Boxing is hardly a dying sport." The fight "could be a nice payday indeed" for Golden Boy. Schaefer added, "I'm going to obviously get some money Monday morning." Many in boxing "don't think Schaefer will have to worry about closing his company's doors," as he "begins to make money at about 1.5 million pay-per-view buys" (AP, 9/13).