Food & beverage companyMondelez Int'l today will announce an "expansive sponsorship deal" with the U.S. men's and women's national soccer teams, Liga MX club Chivas de Guadalajara, Sounders F Clint Dempsey, Galaxy D Omar Gonzalez and NWSL Portland Thorns F Alex Morgan, according to Andrew Adam Newman of the N.Y. TIMES. The deals with the national teams, Chivas USA and Morgan are for three years, and the deals with Dempsey and Gonzalez are for one. The agreements call for Mondelez to be an "exclusive sponsor in all four of its snack categories, meaning its brands will be their official cookie, cracker, candy and gum." The company said that the "timing for the deal is right," as the men’s national team has already qualified for the '14 FIFA World Cup, the women’s national team is competing to qualify for the '15 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, and both teams are headed to the '16 Summer Olympics in Rio. Mondelez brands include Oreo, Chips Ahoy, Ritz, Wheat Thins, Trident, Stride, Sour Patch Kids and Cadbury. The company "pitches its products primarily to mothers, including the well-chronicled soccer moms." Mondelez Senior Dir of Consumer Engagement & Marketing Services for North America Stephen Chriss said that having the exclusive right to the U.S. Soccer Federation logo on packaging, "along with images and cutouts of the three players, will help the brands secure coveted off-shelf displays in supermarkets and in big-box retailers like Walmart and Target." Mondelez indicated that how much the players and teams "will be featured in traditional advertising has yet to be determined." Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed (N.Y. TIMES, 10/9).
AGASSI'S ATTEMPT AT SNACK FOOD: In Las Vegas, Laura Carroll reported Tennis HOFer Andre Agassi's Box Buddies lunchtime snacks are "sold in more than 1,000 grocery stores" in the U.S. and are "slated for about 2,000 as the product rollout continues." The snacks have "been on grocery store shelves for a while with no marketing behind them to ease them into the marketplace and build a solid distribution chain." The snacks are a "result of a partnership between the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education and V20 Foods." They are "distributed by Phoenix-based Hall of Fame Holdings, a company that partners superstar athletes with products" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 10/8).
The '13 Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium now will "be known as the National University Holiday Bowl," according to a source cited by Stefanie Loh of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Terms of National Univ.'s title sponsorship have yet to be released. The San Diego-based institution "offers a range of online degree programs from the associates level to the masters level." National Univ. "is a non-profit institution" and does not have any sports teams (UTSANDIEGO.com, 10/7). The San Diego College Bowl Game Association "has been searching for a replacement" for Bridgepoint since it announced it was not renewing its contract late last year (SDBJ.com, 10/9).
Former Charlotte Motor Speedway President Humpy Wheeler yesterday announced the formation of a new company that will represent grassroots racetracks nationwide in national sponsorship sales. The company, Speedway Benefits, has gotten commitments from 400 of the 1,200 grassroots racetracks around the country, and it claims that they attract 20 million fans annually. Wheeler said, “Big companies have been very uninterested in going out and get the work you have to do to get a few short tracks or get a bunch of them. It would take a tremendous amount of time. We’re going to try to back this up with sound numbers so that the sponsor knows how many people they’ve reached at the Belleville Speedway (Ill.) or the Devil’s Bowl in Texas.” Wheeler said Speedway Benefits has not set pricing for national sponsorships. It will split sales revenue among tracks by dividing them into five tiers based on average annual attendance and assigning each tier a percentage of revenue. In addition to sales, the company wants to become a collective buyer of products that all the tracks use like cups and toilet paper. Wheeler said, “We can buy the famous commodity toilet paper and save them 100-120% on that. Whether you’re a track in Minnesota or Florida, what you buy is pretty much the same.” He also said the company will act like the NBA’s team services group, gathering and sharing successful marketing and sales approaches among the tracks. Wheeler said most grassroots tracks were “insular and independent” before the recession, but there is an interest now in sharing best practices and improving sales. He added, “We hope to change that. We’ve seen a shift away from that and a wanting of an alliance that we didn’t see 20 years ago.”
NEW TO MOTORSPORTS, BUT NOT ALL SPORTS: The concept of rolling up small-market sports facilities and franchises may be unique to motorsports but it is not unique in sports. The California-based Professional Sports Network rolled up 80 minor league baseball teams and sold national sponsorships that included signage at all of those facilities. Wheeler said Speedway Benefits has acquired office space in Charlotte’s South End area. He will serve as Chair of the company, while his son, former GMR and Velocity Sports exec Trip Wheeler, will be President. Former CMS attorney Lauri Eberhart will be Exec VP and General Counsel, while Carolina Speedway promoter Clint Elkins will be Dir of Track Relations and former SMI merchandising exec Todd Adams will be Dir of Tracks.
Nike took over the NFL's apparel contract last season, but the company's "distinctive sense of style -- which has outfitted the Oregon Ducks for years and gradually made its way across the college football landscape -- hadn't really made a true NFL debut" until now, according to Allan Brettman of the Portland OREGONIAN. The brand yesterday unveiled uniforms for the '14 Pro Bowl, which "bear an unmistakable similarity to the Ducks uniforms." Nike's contributions to the Seahawks, Vikings, Dolphins and Jaguars "have been relatively quiet compared to the loud interpretations that have clothed Nike-sponsored college teams in recent years." Opting for a "marked shift in appearances may have been a way in acknowledging the lightly viewed game itself is undergoing a shift in its upcoming edition" (OREGONLIVE.com, 10/9). In Oklahoma City, Erik Horne wrote along with the "format of the game going from conference vs. conference to a playground pick-em, changing the uniforms couldn’t hurt to ramp up interest." Horne: "Why not liven it up a bit with some fresh ideas and fresh swag?" (NEWSOK.com, 10/8). ESPN.com's Paul Lukas wrote the new uniforms are "rather tame compared to some previous Pro Bowl designs." Lukas: "Remember the bizarre jerseys from 1994? Or the long pants from 2011? No, of course you don't remember those, because nobody ever remembers anything about the Pro Bowl. Nobody will remember these new Nike uniforms, either" (ESPN.com, 10/8).
NOT FANS OF THE DESIGNS: ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said the uniforms "look like robot things to me." Kornheiser: "I can't imagine a fat guy wanting to wear this because they're very, very clingy." He added, "Years from now, people are going to look back on these uniforms and on the Pro Bowl itself and they're going to say, 'What were you people thinking?'" ESPN's Michael Wilbon said every time "people create new uniforms, helmets, all these concepts, they are to appeal to 5- to 10 year olds. They don’t even care about 30 year olds" ("PTI," ESPN, 10/8).
Team Canada’s Olympic hockey jerseys yesterday "were met with much criticism and little praise following" an official unveiling at Maple Leaf Gardens, according to Brendan Kennedy of the TORONTO STAR. Nike Senior Category Creative Dir Ken Black said that the design "aims to be a modern take on two jerseys from Canada’s Olympic history: the Winnipeg Falcons’ sweater worn by Canada’s first gold medal-winning team in 1920, and the iconic half-maple-leaf jerseys worn by Paul Henderson and company" in the '72 Summit Series. All three jerseys "include an arm band on the left, but not the right arm, as well as a 'flywire' collar, which simulates traditional laces but ensures a lighter weight, and textured maple leaves on the shoulders." Yesterday's formal unveiling "came a month after leaked photos of the new look had already made the rounds online, drawing mostly bad reviews." Critics were "no less sympathetic after seeing the jerseys officially launched." In an informal poll of about 1,300 people, 54% of voters "didn’t like any one of them" (TORONTO STAR, 10/9). The GLOBE & MAIL's Roy MacGregor writes what "differentiates this uniform from that worn by previous editions of Team Canada is the absence of the stylized logo featuring the outline of a hockey player inside a maple leaf." Hockey Canada "was forced" by the IOC to "tone down any such non-Olympic symbol for the 2010 Vancouver Games, and in Sochi it will have vanished entirely" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/9). The CP's Stephen Whyno noted Canada is the "only team that will have a third jersey in Sochi." Hockey Canada President & CEO Bob Nicholson said that he "wasn't sure how many times it would be worn at the Olympics but mentioned it was added because fans and players like black" (CP, 10/8).
TOSS UP: USA TODAY's Chris Chase writes the reaction in Canada has "been lukewarm," with many fans tweeting that the logo "looked too much like that of Petro Canada." The "faux laces are an abomination" and the "hockey equivalent of basketball's short sleeves." The laces and the "shiny graphics on the shoulder, make these sweaters look like T-shirt jerseys designed by Ed Hardy." Chase: "At least Nike used a Canadian symbol -- the maple leaf -- as the dominant image on its two main jerseys. It looks great and is immediately identifiable." Chase wrote, "Contrast that with the U.S. jerseys, featuring a logo that looks similar to that of K-Swiss" (USA TODAY, 10/9). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Rory Boylen wrote, "I like the attempt at a traditional look on the red and white jerseys. ... Still, those fake draw strings that are on every Olympic jersey are awful and should never have seen the light of day. I think once you get past that, though, these aren’t half bad" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 10/8). SPORTSNET.ca's Luke Fox wrote criticism of the sweaters "varied from mild to wicked." Some fans "compared them to soccer jerseys or practice sweaters," while others "pointed out that the black alternate version with the single red armband looked very, uh, German" (SPORTSNET.ca, 10/8). In Vancouver, Ian Austin writes critics are asking "why Hockey Canada officials chose to ignore the Nazi comparisons when they were pointed out weeks ago." Though the black and red colors and red armband "recall the German uniform, the jersey also has a broad red band across the chest, trimmed in gold, with giant white letters reading out ‘CANADA'” (Vancouver PROVINCE, 10/9).
Sports investment bank Park Lane has signed an endorsement deal with Olympic speedskating hopeful Elli Ochowicz. It is the investment bank’s first athlete endorsement. The deal, which is in an unusual category for athlete endorsements, comes at a time Olympic hopefuls are pursuing funding through crowd-funding sites and other opportunities. Park Lane, which cut the deal directly with Ochowicz, plans to launch a social media campaign (#GoElli) and develop print and digital advertising featuring the two-time Olympian. Ads will appear on sports sites and in financial trade publications. Park Lane Founder & Managing Partner Andrew Kline said, "We do both sports business deals (with startups) and team deals. A lot of the reasons Elli was skating is a lot of the reasons these business guys start businesses. It’s a passion. A lot of these guys are willing to put years and years and years into these businesses and maybe one day they might win gold. I drew parallels between what Elli was doing and what our clients were doing.” Park Lane hired California-based agency Collier Simon to develop a digital and print advertising campaign. There will be two- to four-minute digital videos in which Ochowicz talks about the similarities between her training for the Sochi Games and start-up businesses' efforts to launch their new companies. Kline got to know Ochowicz through her father, Jim Ochowicz, a former Olympian and the manager of the cycling team BMC Racing.
Bankrupt video game maker THQ is suing UFC parent company Zuffa and EA, "stating that EA had informed Zuffa of THQ’s shaky finances as EA and Zuffa worked together ... so that EA could acquire the license to UFC video games," according to court documents cited by Jason Cruz of MMAPAYOUT.com. The complaint was filed last Friday in U.S. District Court in Delaware. The issue goes back to '06 when EA "expressed interest in acquiring the UFC video game franchise from Zuffa." THQ in '09 developed "UFC 2009 Undisputed," which was "a success selling over 3.5 million units." But THQ’s finances "declined in 2011 and the company determined that it would be unable to support its projects including the next games in the UFC franchise." Court documents state, "THQ provided EA internal financial information including detailed sales and revenue figures for the UFC Franchise, and projected marketing expenditures on the next UFC Franchise game." THQ in '12 entered into a $10M settlement with Zuffa "in exchange for the termination of its license and all intellectual property rights to the UFC game brand." However, THQ now "claims that this was a fraudulent transfer as it believes that EA had contacted Zuffa and conveyed the internal financial information it was provided by THQ." THQ claims that it was "'hamstrung' in negotiations with Zuffa due to its knowledge of THQ’s finances and the actual value of the UFC video game franchise" was $20M (MMAPAYOUT.com, 10/7). GLOBAL TAKEDOWN: UFC co-Chair & CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said the promotion is the "largest pay-per-view provider in the world" at over "six million pay-per-view buys this year in North America alone and then we have other distribution deals around the world." Appearing on CNBC's "Worldwide Exchange," Fertitta noted UFC is "distributed in 148 countries and territories, broadcast in 28 languages in nearly a billion homes around the world." Fertitta: "Right now, the focus is that we've got the majority of our content being aired in primetime in North America and South America, which puts it at an odd time in places like Europe and Asia. ... So for 2014, what we're going to do is expand live events into major capitals around Europe in primetime, providing great content for the networks throughout Europe to help build the business here and do the same thing in Asia." When asked if the expansion could possibly diminish the market in the U.S., Fertitta said it would not because "we think we have a tremendous amount of growth here and there are a lot of athletes that are still training in these areas that need the opportunity and need the exposure" ("Worldwide Exchange," CNBC, 10/8).