U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn announced this morning that she will not compete at the Sochi Games, meaning the event “will be without arguably its biggest star,” according to Kelly Whiteside of USA TODAY. Given her “star power," Vonn had been "cast as the American face of these Games.” When NBC “rolled out its huge Olympic blitz, the first promotional spots featured Vonn.” She also is “prominent in Procter & Gamble's ‘Thank You, Mom’ campaign and sponsored by Under Armour, Head, Red Bull, Oakley and Rolex among others.” Vonn’s return to competition was “expected to be one of the major stories of these Games” (USATODAY.com, 1/7). SI.com’s Tim Layden writes Vonn's absence “deprives the Games of one of its most significant U.S. stars.” Only U.S. snowboarder Shaun White "can come close to matching Vonn's celebrity wattage” (SI.com, 1/7). The AP’s Fendrich & Graham write Vonn’s departure leaves the Games “without out one of its biggest stars.” Vonn is a “four-time overall World Cup champion, the most recognized name in Alpine skiing -- and, as it happens, the girlfriend of Tiger Woods.” Fendrich & Graham: “Add it all up, and she would have been the focus of plenty of media coverage in Sochi” (AP, 1/7). Meanwhile, in Baltimore, Sarah Meehan writes Vonn's move is a "blow" to Under Armour, as the company has "backed Vonn for years and currently features her in new advertisements highlighting the company’s ColdGear." While Vonn is not UA's only Olympian, she was the "best known competitor sponsored by the company" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/7). WHO FILLS VONN'S VOID? ESPN Radio's Mike Greenberg said Vonn is "arguably the most identifiable American athlete in the Winter Games" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 1/7). Grantland's Katie Baker wrote on her Twitter account with Vonn not competing in Sochi, "we're gonna be hearing a lotttt more about teenage sensation Mikaela Shiffrin." SportsBusiness Journal's Tripp Mickle wrote, "NBC Sports will be looking for a new darling. Shiffrin? Mancuso? K Clark? Wagner?" The AP's Steve Wilson: "Biggest name now that Lindsey Vonn is out of @Sochi2014 #Olympics: Shaun White? Alex Ovechkin? Kim Yu-na?" The Minneapolis Star Tribune's Patrick Reusse: "My low level of interest in Sochi Games is now much lower." Toronto-based CJCL-AM's Greg Brady wrote Vonn's absence is a "big blow to NBC & CBC because of all the other skiiers I can't possibly name & won't care about learning."
LATE ADDITION TO NBC'S ROSTER? NBC's Dan Patrick said he did not know if Vonn will "work for NBC during the Olympics," but he added, "I would imagine they would try to hire her." Patrick: "It would be a smart move" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 1/7). The N.Y. Times' Christopher Clarey wrote on Twitter it is "hard to imagine Lindsey Vonn won't be in #Sochi even if not competing." Clarey: "She's practically an NBC staffer already. On-air is a no-brainer." "The Dan Patrick Show" Exec Producer Paul Pabst wrote, "Lindsey Vonn will likely be hired as an NBC/Sochi skiing analyst before the day is out...I have no sources on this. Just logic." Baker Street Advertising Senior VP & Exec Creative Dir Bob Dorfman: "With Lindsey Vonn sadly out of the Sochi games, the USA loses a star skier, but NBC gains a winning on-camera personality.
The PGA of America yesterday named Samsung an official patron, announcing a three-year partnership that spans the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup through '16. Samsung and the PGA of America will work to develop multi-screen, second-screen and other interactive experiences for fans. The initial focus will be on expanding the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup experience for fans watching at home. Samsung's line of mobile products will be used as the official scoring system of the PGA Championship and '16 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn. (PGA of America). VARIETY's Spangler & Cohen noted Samsung President Tim Baxter at the CES yesterday in Las Vegas also unveiled that the NBA will "have apps across Samsung's entertainment product line," while the PGA of America will have "exclusive apps on the Samsung platform." Baxter also brought Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban "to the stage to talk briefly about 'second screen 2.0'" (VARIETY.com, 1/6). CONSUMER REPORTS' Donna Tapellini noted Samsung at the CES did not detail what the deals with the PGA of America and the NBA are or "how they will enhance" TV viewing. All attendees saw was Cuban and PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua "telling us how wonderful it is to be working with Samsung"(CONSUMERREPORTS.org, 1/6).
More than a half-dozen automakers are "expected to showcase their newest vehicles come February in Super Bowl ads," according to Melissa Burden of the DETROIT NEWS. GM, Hyundai, Kia, Volkswagen, Toyota, Audi and Jaguar have all "announced plans to run commercials during Super Bowl XLVIII." GM CMO/Global Chevrolet Tim Mahoney said, "We bought two 60-second spots. We may parse them, but we’re in for a couple." Mahoney would not "divulge the automaker’s specific plans for its ads, or what Chevrolet vehicles the ads will feature." However, he said that it is "important to be back in the game." Mahoney: "It’s not just a North American phenomenon. With the importance of social media and things like YouTube, these really become global ads." Kia, Toyota, Volkswagen and Audi also are "expected to run one-minute ads." Meanwhile, Ford "hinted it has something in the works for the Super Bowl." Ford Exec VP/Global Marketing, Sales & Service Jim Farley said, "We have very exciting plans for that period of time. We definitely will have a strategy for the Super Bowl." Lincoln Global Communications Manager Stephane Cesareo said that the brand, which aired spots during the '13 game, has "no plans to advertise" in the '14 game. Chrysler "would not confirm if it has any commercials planned for the Super Bowl," but it is "widely expected to return after three years of buzz-creating bowl ads." A spokesperson for Mercedes-Benz USA, which advertised during the '13 Super Bowl, said that the automaker has "no plans to advertise" in the '14 game. GM also will "air Chevrolet and Cadillac ads" during the Sochi Games in February on NBC (DETROIT NEWS, 1/7).
GAME ON: ABC's Dan Abrams noted the NFL playoffs "have barely begun, but Super Bowl ad mania is already under way." Old Spice has gotten "out of the gate already, generating ad buzz weeks ahead of Super Bowl Sunday." The brand's "Mom Song" campaign debuted last weekend, and Abrams noted the ad is a "promising start." Abrams: "Prices for the ads that run during the big game are said to be higher than ever before at $4 million for 30 seconds. Maybe that's why Old Spice got a jump start, so we and other media can add to the value." However, he said, "Whether those pricey spots do anything to boost sales, that's another question" ("Nightline," ABC, 1/6). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Robin Kawakami wrote many viewers "wondered why Old Spice didn’t wait for the ratings bonanza of the Super Bowl" to debut the ad. A P&G spokesperson indicated that Old Spice "doesn’t have an ad buy in for the Super Bowl yet" (WSJ.com, 1/6). BEAST OR BURDEN? AD AGE's Jack Neff cited a study by Tuscon-based research firm Communicus as showing that 60% of Super Bowl ads it tests "don't increase purchase or purchase intent." Communicus CEO Jeri Smith said that Super Bowl spots "do better than average in ad awareness, with 44% of people remembering they've seen an average Super Bowl ad vs. 32% for other ads that get similar gross-rating-point exposure." However, she said that because "the creative often focuses less on the brands ... people not surprisingly remember the brands less often in Super Bowl ads." She added that people people who remember seeing a Super Bowl ad "recall the brand 35% of the time vs. about half the time for other ads." Smith said that the Super Bowl "works better for new products" (ADAGE.com, 1/6).
JR Motorsports yesterday announced that NAPA Auto Parts will be the full-season, primary sponsor of 18-year-old Chase Elliott, who will "run full time this season in the Nationwide Series" driving the No. 9 car "made famous by his father," former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bill Elliott, according to Jim Utter of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. NAPA, which "enters its 19th season of sponsorship in NASCAR, is based in Atlanta, not far from the Elliotts’ hometown of Dawsonville, Ga." The pairing "seems a natural one for NAPA, but the company’s NASCAR plans had been uncertain" after the '13 season. NAPA most recently sponsored driver Martin Truex Jr. in the Sprint Cup Series but "left the Michael Waltrip Racing organization at the conclusion of the 2013 season" following MWR's race manipulation scandal at Richmond Int'l Raceway in September. NAPA President Dan Askey said, "Chase Elliott is a young, talented, future star in the sport and will represent NAPA well both on and off the track" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/7). JR Motorsports co-Owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. said, "The key in this is NAPA, and I feel privileged to welcome them to my race team after working with them so extensively earlier in my career. I recognize -- and I think Chase does, too -- the responsibility that comes with representing a company so significant in the lives of NASCAR fans. We welcome the opportunity and appreciate what NAPA means to this sport" (USA TODAY, 1/7).
The NHL yesterday released the top 20 most-popular jerseys on Shop.NHL.com for '13, and Penguins C Sidney Crosby "tops the list," according to Brian Stubits of CBSSPORTS.com. The list includes "sales from the NHL shop, not from other outlets or even the individual teams," which "might explain" why Maple Leafs RW Phil Kessel at No. 17 is the only player on a Canadian team in the top 20. There is "no shortage of Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, James van Riemsdyk, etc. sweaters in and around Toronto or Sedin sweaters in Vancouver." Stubits: "All you have to do is look at the list of the NHL's top-selling jerseys and you can understand why we see the same teams on the national broadcasts all the time" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/6).
TOP-SELLING PLAYERS JERSEYS ON SHOP.NHL.COM DURING '13
Producers of a new Off Broadway play about the Yankees titled "Bronx Bombers" said that they have formed partnerships with the team and MLB to "enable the production not only to outfit actors in authentic pinstripe uniforms, but also to use team and league logos in advertising -- a first," according to Andrew Adam Newman of the N.Y. TIMES. Much of the marketing for the show, including coasters at Manhattan sports bars, is "directed at those more accustomed to box scores than box offices." Commercials for the play "are airing on ESPN and the MLB Network," and radio ads featuring Yankees broadcaster John Sterling are "on sports talk stations" including WFAN-AM and ESPN Radio 98.7. Advertising for the production is by SpotCo in N.Y., part of Reach4entertainment Enterprises, with PR by Polk & Co. The producers "declined to reveal the projected cost for the ad campaign, which also will include typical Broadway promotions like direct mail to theatergoers, commercials on NY1 and ads on theater websites like Playbill.com." The play is "the third in a sports-themed series conceived by" producer Fran Kirmser, following "Lombardi" and "Magic/Bird." Show co-producer Tony Ponturo said, "The NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and the Yankees all said you can use our marks and our uniforms and can tell the story of our history. That had never been done before in all three cases." Situation Interactive President Damian Bazadona, whose agency is handling online marketing for the play, said that social media was "an ideal venue for sports-related marketing." Bazadona said, "People clearly self-identify as sports fans, so I can do less of the traditional banner advertising and more of the micro-targeted stuff on social media"(N.Y. TIMES, 1/7).
Several Cincinnati-based branding experts indicated that despite the fact the Bengals lost their Wild Card game against the Chargers, Procter & Gamble and Kroger, who bought thousands of tickets to ensure the game was not blacked out locally by the NFL, “walked away as winners,” according to Andy Brownfield of the CINCINNATI BUSINESS COURIER. Cincinnati-based brand consulting firm Landor Associates Client Dir Chris Hall in an e-mail wrote, “It shows that each company is invested in their city, and want to show their support. And not only are they being good stewards for the city, they donated the tickets to military personnel and vets. So who can complain about that?” Cincinnati-based consumer marketing firm Brandery GM Mike Bott said that the companies’ motivation “was probably twofold: the ticket purchase engenders goodwill by demonstrating good corporate citizenship in the Cincinnati community and the brands benefit in a more direct manner in that Kroger probably saw a spike in sales from viewing parties and P&G’s NFL-related ads hit the local market around the game.” Brownfield wrote it "doesn’t hurt that P&G is a national NFL sponsor either.” Bott said, “It wouldn’t have been good for relations to have the local market game blacked out” (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/6). OPPORTUNITYKNOCKS: Meijer CEO & co-Chair Hank Meijer yesterday appeared on CNBC to discuss his company's purchase of 1,200 tickets to the Colts-Chiefs Wild Card game to ensure the game was a sellout. Meijer said, "We've got a lot of customers in our part of the world ... who not only can't get flights or don't dare drive, but can't get out of their homes. So the Colts, with whom we've got a terrific relationship, called us and said, 'We don't know how to get this on the air unless we get some help.' We couldn't resist. It was just a great opportunity to connect with our customers." Meijer added that "buying the tickets felt great but it is hard to quantify how much goodwill it generated in the community and I don't think you ever can." Meijer: "It's part of the relationship we want to have with our communities and when there was a chance to be part of the game, we jumped at it" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 1/6).