UPS notified NASCAR and Roush Fenway Racing that it plans to end its sponsorship of the sport and team following the ‘14 Sprint Cup season. The move comes after UPS in ’12 dropped its full-season primary sponsorship of the No. 6 Cup entry then driven by David Ragan. The company has shifted its focus over the last several years from NASCAR to college sports, signing one of the first national sponsorships with IMG College. UPS signed a four-year, $100M deal with 68 colleges in August ’11. UPS is the latest in a series of blue-chip sponsors to end their official NASCAR agreements, including PNG and DirecTV. Meanwhile, NASCAR added HP and Sherwin-Williams as sponsors this year. NASCAR Chief Sales Officer Jim O’Connell in a statement said, “UPS has been a fantastic partner to NASCAR over the last decade-and-a-half. As we celebrate its long and successful tenure, we also welcome seven new companies to the family of Official NASCAR Partners. Additionally in 2013, more than 50 new sponsors have entered the sport at the team level alone. Some of the world’s largest and most admired brands continue to invest in NASCAR -- including one-in-four Fortune 500 companies -- because their sponsorships of teams, tracks and the sanctioning body help drive business.” UPS PR Dir Susan Rosenberg added in a statement, "UPS has enjoyed tremendous success through its partnership with NASCAR, including sponsorships at the league, team and track level. The business-to-business opportunities provided within NASCAR have proven valuable to UPS and have helped achieve desired results and accomplished the goals we set forth. The UPS decision to exit NASCAR is strictly a business decision to align with new business priorities." UPS had a long history in NASCAR and was one of the first in the sport to effectively make a driver the public face of its brand by featuring Dale Jarrett in a multiyear campaign. Known as “Race the Truck,” the humorous campaign showed the company trying to convince the driver to race its “Big Brown” truck in a race.
Marketing and Sponsorship
Bauer Performance Sports' hockey division is "unveiling OD1N (pronounced 'Odin'), a customized set of ultra-light skates, protective body armour and goalie pads that the company claims will help six selected NHLers move faster than ever," according Morgan Campbell of the TORONTO STAR. The company said that the OD1N body armor is "four pounds lighter than standard gear." It was "developed using a 3D optical scanner, which allows technicians to build pads to fit the contours of an athlete's body." While that technology is "a few years from becoming available to recreational players, eventually the market will demand it." The skates most NHL players use "weigh about 800 grams each," but the OD1N skate "weighs just 550 grams." The six NHLers "hand-picked" for the OD1N launch -- Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist, Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews and RW Patrick Kane, Flyers C Claude Giroux, and Capitals RW Alex Ovechkin and C Nicklas Backstrom -- will "wear it in Sochi" during the '14 Winter Games. Bauer officials said that a skate "identical to the OD1N might be available on store shelves" within four years. But Bauer Hockey GM/Player Equipment Craig Desjardins said that he "can't estimate what an OD1N skate would cost in a store because it wasn't developed with the retail market in mind." Bauer CFO Amir Rosenthal said, "This is an investment in the future of the business. This is the way we build a platform that can extend to consumers. The payoff has been demonstrated over many years. This is a long-term play" (TORONTO STAR, 12/21).
Nike has "unveiled signature Christmas shoes" for Heat F LeBron James, Thunder F Kevin Durant and Lakers G Kobe Bryant, and the shoes will be "worn in NBA games on Dec. 25 and show up in stores the following day -- in limited quantities, of course," according to Kyle Stock of BLOOMBERG NEWS. Nike is "getting set to release one of the most anticipated shoes of the year, the Air Jordan Retro 11 Gamma Blue, and on New Year's Day will roll out the Zoom HyperRev." SportsOneSource analyst Matt Powell said that Nike's "major launches produce as many as 750,000 pairs of shoes." Stock noted the company is "careful not to fully meet demand, creating a sense of scarcity that drives sales of its next release." Nike has "six different basketball shoes coming out in the last 10 days of December." But Powell said that the company is "testing the fervor of its biggest fans." Powell: "I think it's starting to lose a little bit of its luster. There seems to be a special release every day now. I have 'Nike releases' set up in my Google Alerts, and it shows up more than anything else." Stock noted next year, every company that "makes basketball shoes is setting a time machine for the 1990s." Nike is "rebooting its Charles Barkley franchise, and Fila is dusting off its Grant Hill models." Additionally, Reebok is "betting Shaquille O'Neal still has sneaker cred," while adidas "goes big with a Dikembe Mutombo line." Powell: "There definitely could be a glut in the marketplace" (BUSINESSWEEK.com, 12/18).
Mario Balotelli, who plays for both Serie A club AC Milan and the Italian national team, has signed a sponsorship deal with Puma, part of the company's "efforts to strengthen a footwear business that has lost out to rivals Nike and Adidas in recent years," according to REUTERS. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Puma has wanted to sign "big-name players" ahead of the '14 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Balotelli joins Puma's roster of soccer endorsers that includes Sergio Aguero (Argentina), Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Marco Reus (Germany) and Radamel Falcao (Colombia) (REUTERS, 12/23). GOAL.com's Chris Davie notes Balotelli's deal "got off to a noticeable start" on Sunday after he "wore his own headline-inspired boots" during AC Milan's match against Inter Milan. The design of the shoe "incorporates the biggest headlines surrounding the Italy international, including 'why always me?' which was made famous" after Balotelli scored in EPL club Manchester City's 6-1 win over Manchester United in October '11 (GOAL.com, 12/23).
Massachusetts-based Cool Gear Int'l will "produce FIFA-themed, reusable chillers, tumblers and its signature coolgearcans" for the '14 FIFA World Cup, according to Donna Goodison of the BOSTON HERALD. Cool Gear Founder & CEO Donna Roth said, "It's an exciting deal for us because it’s hitting a different market for us -- sports -- but still is viable for (the mass market) as well." Roth said that Cool Gear "has strong distributors in Brazil and key countries around the world." The products will be sold in World Cup venues, as well as "in North America, elsewhere in Brazil, Europe, Colombia, Africa and South Korea." Roth said of the deal, "It will be a nice piece to add. The time frame is short. We’ll get a big hit this first and second quarter, and then it will be over" (BOSTON HERALD, 12/22).
Under Armour is "keeping its ties to the 'Duck Dynasty' franchise amid a media uproar over comments made by star Phil Robertson about gays and blacks," according to Tim Swift of the Baltimore SUN. The company said that it "does not condone Robertson's statements," but it "does not have plans to end its business dealings with the Robertson family." UA "outfits 'Buck Commander,'" a spin-off of "Duck Dynasty" on the Outdoor Channel that "centers on hunting and fishing." UA also sells hats, sunglasses and "other 'Duck Dynasty' merchandise." Co-star Willie Robertson "recently appeared in a Winter Olympics-themed TV spot" for UA. But the show's products "were played down on the Under Armour website" on Friday (Baltimore SUN, 12/21).
State Farm Assistant VP/Marketing Tim Van Hoof indicated that the company's "State of Turbulence" ads featuring Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will remain in rotation "as the regular season ends and the playoffs begin." In Milwaukee, Don Walker wondered if Rodgers' seven-game absence due to a broken collarbone "had any effect on State Farm." Van Hoof said that there is "proof the ads are keeping State Farm in the collective consciousness of consumers" (JSONLINE.com, 12/22).
BEFORE & AFTER: In Colorado, Scott Condon in a front-page piece reports Aspen Skiing Co. is using its "Before Aspen" ad campaign "for a third -- and final -- time this winter." The print campaign has "featured unique images and usually clever catchphrases to convey the idea that Aspen, Snowmass Village and the four local ski areas define excellence in all aspects of ski life." But Skico VP/Marketing Christian Knapp indicated that the campaign "has run its course." Skico and Factory Design Labs, Denver, are "brainstorming on a new campaign" that officials hope to select by the end of January (ASPEN TIMES, 12/23).
I WORK OUT: In Orlando, Shannon Owens reported NASCAR driver Danica Patrick has "shot a new Go Daddy commercial for the Super Bowl" in which she is "looking quite buff in her muscle suit" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 12/20). The ad was shot last Wednesday in L.A., and Patrick "was seen running alongside a host of bulky shirtless men as the cameras rolled" (DAILYMAIL.co.uk, 12/18).