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Volume 24 No. 156

Marketing and Sponsorship

IndyCar on Friday formally announced that Verizon has signed on to become the new title sponsor of the IndyCar Series. The telecommunications company will continue to sponsor the award given to the pole winner at each race. The '14 Verizon IndyCar Series begins March 30 in St. Petersburg. Terms of the deal were not officially discussed, but SportsBusiness Journal last week reported Verizon would sign a 10-year deal worth $10M annually (THE DAILY). In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin cites a source as saying that the Verizon deal "includes a significant promotional commitment." That is something IndyCar "desperately needs." Cavin: "The beauty of this is that everyone knows Verizon, and millions have its phones in their hands every day. This is not an apparel company that some people choose to wear, it's not an Internet search engine or an auto parts retailer -- companies that once were title sponsors of IndyCar. This is a communications giant, and it's clear Verizon knows how to promote its products." He adds there likely will be a "ripple effect" from Verizon coming on board, as "other companies will be more likely to join a sports organization that has such a strong primary backer" (, 3/14).

Warriors G Stephen Curry is "the only All-Star among a group of 11 NBA players" who endorse Under Armour, which has made him "the center of the company's effort to crack the basketball shoe market," according to Ira Boudway of BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK. Nike and its Jordan Brand have 92% of NBA players, compared with less than 1% for UA. UA Dir of Sports Marketing for Professional Basketball Kris Stone said of Curry, "He’s going to help continue to legitimize us in the category." UA is "at work on a signature shoe for Curry, a project that will take about a year and will be promoted with a national ad campaign." The brand said that it "hopes to have 10 percent of the market within five years" by "hitching to Curry’s rising star." But UA is "counting on something greater than Curry’s basketball skills and gentlemanly demeanor: He resembles a regular guy." Stone said that Curry's "underdog story was a big part of his appeal for the brand." Data from Repucom shows that Curry "ranks higher than any other NBA player as an endorser," with his score on par with Shaquille O'Neal, Usain Bolt and Phil Mickelson. Companies "have noticed," as Curry last year signed deals with both UA and Degree deodorant. Octagon agent Jeff Austin, who reps Curry, said that a sports drink brand last summer was "so eager to sign Curry that it offered to pay him three times as much as his current deal with Muscle Milk and cover any penalty for breaking his contract." A "cameo in a State Farm commercial" featuring Clippers G Chris Paul also is "coming soon." Unilever during NBA All-Star Weekend released a Degree spot "featuring Curry with the slogan 'Do more.'" The ad, "directed by musician John Legend, will air during this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament" (, 3/13).

Auburn F Allen Payne on Thursday wrote on his Twitter account the men's basketball team "will struggle as long as we are under Under Armour," according to Colin McGowan of SPORTS ON EARTH. McGowan writes, "I’m pretty sure he means Auburn’s association with Under Armour sinks it by making it nigh impossible to recruit top high school talent." The "line of thinking" is that because Nike and adidas "sponsor a slew of the most prominent basketball camps, tournaments and AAU teams, they have a hand in steering the best young players toward programs ... with which their companies are affiliated." UA is "a second-tier basketball brand." It is "not that UA doesn’t sponsor the same sorts of things the bigger companies do, but it doesn’t have the foothold in the marketplace that Nike or Adidas has." UA "probably came to Auburn with an interest in being the chosen brand of Auburn Football, and because these types of deals are athletic department-wide, it also outfits the basketball team." This has had the "unintended consequence of dooming the basketball program, which wasn’t particularly good in the first place" (, 3/14). Basketball HOFer Charles Barkley said that he wanted Auburn "to change its apparel affiliation for basketball" from UA to Nike. Former Auburn coach Tony Barbee, prior to being fired by the school on Wednesday, said, "The only problem I have with the Auburn program right now is we're not a Nike school. I've had some conversations with [AD Jay Jacobs], I think we need to separate from the football program and go with Nike. ... I would love to see Auburn switch to Nike on the basketball side of it." In Alabama, James Crepea notes the shoe and apparel deal has been "a major bone of contention for many within the basketball program privately" (MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER, 3/14).

March Madness -- with its "wide appeal to a very young and very desirable audience" -- offers a "marketing mix that advertisers crave but can rarely find," according to Bruce Horovitz of USA TODAY. Not only is the tournament live sports, but it is "a social-media gabfest." Data from Kantar Media shows that the tournament generated more than $1.15B in ad revenue last year and "is expected to easily top that figure this year." 21 Sports & Entertainment Marketing Group Founder & CEO Rob Prazmark said, "March Madness is the right time, right place and continues to grow with no signs of peaking." Several brands are "debuting new ads" this year. Burger King's "new two-for-$5 TV spot stars" former NBAer Chris Webber, while Papa John's has "new spots featuring" CBS' Jim Nantz. Audi "has new ads starring comedian Ricky Gervais," and Pizza Hut "debuts spots to promote its WingStreet wings featuring ESPN's Scott Van Pelt" (USA TODAY, 3/14).

Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts on Thursday released a series of behind-the-scenes videos starring golfer Rickie Fowler that tout “The Big Win” promotion around its IHG Rewards Club. The series features Fowler giving golf and business trip advice to reward club members. The campaign also allows club members to personalize "prank" videos for friends of Fowler doling out fake tips designed to mess up their game. The spots, which were created by PGA Tour Entertainment and Ogilvy, were shot at Riviera Country Club and mark the third season Fowler has partnered with the hotel brand (Crowne Plaza).'s Kyle Porter wrote Fowler has "built a fairly unique stable of brands," including Red Bull, Puma, Farmers Insurance, and Crowne Plaza. The outtakes from the videos are a "pretty good microcosm of Fowler's personality." Fowler noted that he is "the same, but a little bit different (and probably a lot richer) than your average businessman." He "pursues success, albeit at a higher level than most." Fowler said, "For me the amount of time I spend on the road and traveling, (Crowne Plaza) is a great fit for me. It relates for people who travel for business and go cross-country for meeting[s]. I just have a different type of meeting. I meet on the golf course and go play a tournament" (, 3/13).