Lindsey Vonn’s decision to skip the Sochi Games yesterday caught her sponsors by surprise, but the timing of the decision means it will have a limited effect on their marketing plans. Vonn has just one sponsorship deal with an Olympic sponsor, as P&G tapped her to be the chief spokesperson of its “Thank You, Mom” campaign. However, Vonn will not appear in any P&G advertising, with the company expected to lean on 16 other athletes such as hockey player Julie Chu and alpine skiers Ted Ligety and Mikaela Shiffrin. P&G’s beauty brands such as Olay, CoverGirl and Pantene are expected to feature Vonn in Olympic-related marketing despite her absence from the Sochi Games, though the company would not provide details of their plans. The rest of Vonn’s endorsements are long-term deals that extend beyond the Olympics. Those include Red Bull, Under Armour, Rolex, GoPro, Vail Resorts, Head and Oakley, among others. UA developed a winter ad that features Vonn prominently and has been airing during NFL and college football and basketball games over the last two months. The company was expected to pull that advertisement in the days leading up to Sochi in order to comply with the IOC’s Rule 40, which forbids non-Olympic sponsors from featuring Olympians in ads during the Games. But because Vonn will not be competing, UA will be able to continue to run the spot during the Olympics if it chooses. A UA spokesperson today said its “media buy is wrapping up and there are no plans to change it.”
NOT EXPECTED TO TRAVEL TO RUSSIA: Sponsors typically include injury clauses in their contracts with Olympians, but rather than exercising those clauses, sponsors often look for other ways for an athlete to fulfill her commitments through appearances or social media. Vonn is expected to have surgery before the Sochi Games and is not planning to travel to Russia. That means she will not be able to make appearances in Sochi for P&G or NBC. She could, however, attend P&G-related events in the U.S. or do satellite TV appearances from home or NBC studios.
COULD THIS IMPACT FUTURE EARNINGS? The effect of Vonn’s injury on her long-term earning potential will be determined by whether or not she returns for the ‘18 Pyeongchang Games. Success there would boost her opportunities for endorsements and appearances after she retires, said Olympic agent Evan Morgenstein, founder of PMG Sports. He added, “She’s got huge name recognition. But the way to truly cross over as an Olympic athlete is to have your last Olympic experience be your greatest moment. If you come back from injury and win in glorious fashion, people will remember you forever. You have to ride off into the sunset like Mark Spitz, Bruce Jenner, Mike Eruzione. It’s really important the last thing the public gets is your greatest moment. The jury is still out with her.” Vonn is represented by IMG VP/Action Sports Mark Ervin and Sue Dorf.
USG Corp. is "launching a rebranding campaign -- only the third in its 111-year history -- with a Team USA sponsorship at the center," according to Kate Maddox of AD AGE. USG was "severly affected by the recession," and as part of its rebranding, USG "inked a four-year deal to be the official building-materials sponsor" of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams. USOC Associate Communications Dir Jon Mason said USG's sponsorship "is a little bit of a departure" because the USOC typically has deals with "major global brands with a significant impact." USG will "provide materials to help build the Citi-sponsored USA House in Sochi," and also is "providing materials to help build the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs." Ad agency Gyro Exec Creative Dir Doug Kamp said that a "major goal is to raise brand awareness of USG, which makes drywall and other products for the construction industry." In the ads, images "morph from building scenes to life-achievement scenes." One ad "has an image of an installer carrying a sheet of drywall, which becomes a ski slope over which a Team USA snowboarder is jumping." The campaign also includes "online video and social media, featuring stories of Olympic and Paralympic athletes and the challenges they've had to overcome in their journey." USG "isn't planning TV ads" during NBC's broadcast, "although it is considering local TV spots in key markets" (ADAGE.com, 1/7).
POLITICO.com’s Cheney & Hohmann reported the Obama administration is planning an “ad blitz to push health coverage” during NBC’s telecasts of the Sochi Games. The Department of Health & Human Services yesterday confirmed that it has “bought advertising time in markets with high rates of uninsured people." An HHS official said that the ads will be "aimed at young uninsured people and their families.” HHS said that ratings for typical primetime and sports programming “dip during the Olympics, so the administration moved some of its paid media budget to the NBC Olympic inventory to maximize viewership.” The agency “declined to specify the size of the adbuy” (POLITICO.com, 1/7).
MOTHERS' DAY: ADWEEK's Emma Bazilian wrote P&G's new "Thank You, Mom" ad entitled "Pick Them Back Up" is "as warm and fuzzy as it gets." Whether or not viewers have "actually been a parent, it's pretty hard not to get a little misty" about the spot, which was made by Wieden + Kennedy. The ad "has all the essential ingredients for a successful heartwarmer." The two-minute video "will make its TV premiere on Sunday during the Golden Globe Awards" (ADWEEK.com, 1/7).
AN OLYMPIC FIRST: Kashi has launched its first Olympics-themed ad campaign, featuring U.S. cross-country skier Kikkan Randall. The company during the Games will air 15- and 30-second versions of the "Kikkan versus Kikkan" ad. The program marks Kashi's inaugural partnership with the USOC and the first time an athlete has been featured on one of its products, with Randall highlighted on limited-edition GoLean cereal boxes (Kashi).
STANDING OUT IN THE CROWD: The apparel SOCOG staffers will wear during the Games was discussed on CBS Sports Network's "Lead Off" last night, with CBS' Tony Luftman calling the clothing “miserable” and saying it looks like it is "sponsored by Skittles.” CBS' Doug Gottlieb said, “It looks like they're in paintball or somebody had Skittles and then spit it out all over them. I actually kind of think it’s cool.” Luftman noted he would prefer something that “looks less like rainbow sherbet.” Gottlieb: “If you're staff, you want to have something that sticks out so that if somebody needs something they're like, ‘Got to find a staff guy. There’s a guy that looks like somebody that had Skittles spit out on them’” (“Lead Off,” CBSSN, 1/7).
NBC has "made a dent in selling off the ad inventory" for Super Bowl XLIX in '15 "even before the kickoff for Super Bowl XLVIII takes place on Fox in a few weeks," according to Brian Steinberg of VARIETY. NBC Sports Exec VP/Ad Sales Seth Winter said that the net has "sold a 'double digit' number of ad berths" for the '15 Super Bowl. Winter "declined to specify what percentage of ad inventory was sold or the price NBC was seeking (VARIETY.com, 1/7).
Heinz' Super Bowl spot is being tied
into a broader campaign
WHAT DID THE PAPA TOMATO SAY TO THE BABY TOMATO? Heinz Ketchup will air a 30-second spot during Fox’ Super Bowl XLVIII telecast on Feb. 2, marking its first Super Bowl spot in 16 years and only second appearance in the brand’s history. The spot will highlight the belief that when someone picks up a bottle of Heinz, they are triggering happy memories from past years where Heinz was present. The ad was created by Cramer-Krasselt, Chicago (Heinz). In Pittsburgh, Paul Gough noted it “wasn’t clear when the spot would run during the game or the exact content of the ad.” Heinz said that the company would “tie the Super Bowl ad into a broader campaign called ‘Show Us Your Heinz,’ soliciting photos of customers with Heinz products and awards worth $400,000, including five trips to a championship sports event” (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/7). AD AGE's E.J. Schultz wrote Heinz' return to the Super Bowl is a "surprising move for a company that has traditionally spent very little on advertising, given its size." Consulting firm Shea Marketing Founder Rick Shea "speculated that the ad could be as much about raising Heinz's corporate profile as selling more ketchup." Shea said that the "other possibility is that Heinz is looking to raise its global awareness, which the Super Bowl spot could help achieve" (ADAGE.com, 1/7).
The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship "will be without a sponsor after next month's event and might be on the move," according to Alex Miceli of GOLFWEEK. Accenture has "sponsored the event since its 1999 inception," but has told the PGA Tour that the Feb. 19-23 event at the Ritz Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz., "will be its last." Sources said that the future of the tournament, which "ends the West Coast swing, could include a later date and move from the desert." But it "all depends on the sponsor" (GOLFWEEK, 1/10 issue). SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Michael Smith notes the AT&T National, BMW Championship and the match play event "each have title sponsorships that run out" in '14. The BMW is a FedExCup playoff event, which "come with a price tag more expensive than the standard tour events." Playoff and WGC events "typically go" for $9-11M annually, and a renewal could cost anywhere from $12-15M per year. The match play event has been "troubled by unpredictable weather, including snow." That has "led to reports that the tournament could move to a different site, or perhaps even go overseas, which it could justify as a WGC event" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/6 issue).
Reebok has the rights "to make NHL jerseys," but parent company adidas is "considering putting its own name" on the jerseys instead of Reebok, according to Elliotte Friedman of the CBC. As part of the transition from Reebok to adidas, there could be an "extension of the current contract, which runs through 2016-17" (CBC.ca, 1/7). SPORTING NEWS' Sean Gentille wrote the move would be "interesting," as Reebok Hockey has a "handful of high-profile athlete endorsers," including Penguins C Sidney Crosby. Gentille: "Odds are he's not strapping on adidas skates anytime soon" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 1/7).
THE BIG REVEAL: Pepsi, which is an official NHL and NHLPA partner, has secured the presenting sponsorship for Gatorade in Canada of "NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other." The CBC and NBCSN series will tell the stories of more than two dozen NHL stars on and off the ice as they participate in regular-season games this season, including the league's outdoor games. Coors Light has secured the U.S. presenting sponsorship (THE DAILY).
LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE: Canada-based sports retailer Sport Chek on Monday signed Lightning C Steven Stamkos to a multiyear deal to appear in the company's branding and ad campaigns. The deal includes exclusive behind-the-scenes digital content as well as appearances at Sport Chek stores and events (Sport Chek).
Recycled fabric brand Repreve will return as a sponsor of ESPN's Winter X Games. The brand, a division of textile manufacturer Unifi, signed its first sports sponsorship last year for the Winter X Games. Unifi President Roger Berrier said last year’s deal helped the brand add new customers such as Volcom and Quiksilver, which is why the company decided to sponsor Winter X a second time. Berrier said, “We threw a rock (last year) and created a ripple. We want to keep building on that." The company renewed its endorsement deal with snowboarder Elena Hight to support its sponsorship. She will be featured in a 30-second ad that runs during the X Games. She also will wear a lime green Volcom jacket made from Repreve fabric during the women’s snowboard superpipe competition. The brand plans to give spectators lime green Repreve beanies made from six plastic bottles, and Berrier hopes the sight of people in lime green beanies alongside the superpipe is “overwhelming on TV.” ESPN is expected to talk about Repreve during the broadcast and promote the brand’s social media campaign: #TurnItGreen. The campaign is designed to raise awareness of recycling and Repreve fabric.
NAPA Auto Parts has signed with Nationwide Series rookie Chase Elliott for full-season sponsorship, and ESPN.com's Brant James wrote the brand following last year's Michael Waltrip Racing scandal "needed an assurance ... of good citizenship." JR Motorsports co-Owner Kelley Earnhardt Miller said, "This situation really kind of came together for us in the last 30 days full force, and to really get serious about it, we had to stand up to a lot of different things for NAPA as they have very high standards. We had to prove to them that we are going to go out and do what we said we could do and be a great representative for them." James wrote JR Motorsports offers NAPA "a place to cleanse itself of the stain of the MWR scandal while remaining in a series it has used as a ubiquitous marketing platform for 19 years" (ESPN.com, 1/7).
LINSANE IN THE MEMBRANE: BLOOMBERG NEWS' Scott Soshnick noted Rockets G Jeremy Lin's new endorsement deal with adidas "includes public appearances in Asia." Lin said, "I definitely have the international appeal. There will be tours in Asia -- that's part of the package." Lin will have "input on product development and design" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 1/6).
ON THE AUCTION BLOCK: Bloomingdale's in celebration of Super Bowl XLVIII is collaborating with the NFL and the Council of Fashion Designers of America to auction off 48 one-of-a-kind helmets at bloomingdales.com. Each helmet will be customized by a fashion designer, and fans can bid on them from Jan. 15 through Feb. 4, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting the NFL Foundation. The helmets will be unveiled in Bloomingdale's windows on Jan. 15 at 5:00pm ET (Bloomingdale's).
CHECKMATE: Espen Agdestein, the manager for chess player Magnus Carlsen, said that his "ability to attract commercial sponsorships -- in 2013, he brought in revenues of about [U.S.$2.41M] -- is 'pioneering' for chess." The FINANCIAL TIMES' Martin Sandbu notes Carlsen "models for the Dutch clothing company G-Star RAW, whose advertising campaign has partnered him with British model Lily Cole." Carlsen this month "heads to California to meet the big names in Silicon Valley." Arctic Securities Head of Int'l Sales Gaute Ulltveit-Moe, whose company organized a chess event this week in London, said that the association with Carlsen had "brought the firm new clients." Ulltveit-Moe said, “People have called saying, ‘I see you sponsor Magnus Carlsen; I want to do business with you'" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 1/8).