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Volume 24 No. 134

Marketing and Sponsorship

Candy brand Skittles, which recently signed Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch to an endorsement deal, is "now getting more involved with the NFL," according to Darren Rovell of Skittles, which is owned by Mars Inc., yesterday announced that it "now has an official NFL sponsorship." The deal is "an add-on for Mars, which already has a sponsorship through the league with its Snickers partnership." Mars subsidiary Wrigley Senior Dir of Seasonal, Media/Digital, Promotions & Shopper Marketing Matt Montei said the plan is for Skittles to become an "integrated part of the game day experience, both through retail and in-stadium activations." Montei added that the brand also is "working on team sponsorship deals so that Skittles can activate in local areas" (, 5/20).

The WNBA is launching a new marketing effort called WNBA Pride aimed at the LGBT community. The effort includes the creation of a new site on, called where league and team Pride content will be posted throughout the season. In addition, WNBA teams will host Pride-themed games throughout June where players will wear commemorative Pride shooting shirts. The WNBA also will celebrate LGBT Pride on national TV with the June 22 Shock-Sky game on ESPN2. A new WNBA Pride logo will appear during the broadcast in courtside signage along with in-game promotions. Other elements include team participation in local LGBT Pride festivals and parades and advertising with lesbian-targeted outlets. Covergirl is the presenting sponsor of the new campaign (John Lombardo, Staff Writer). The AP's Doug Feinberg writes the WNBA is “capitalizing on what it has quietly known for years: The community makes up a significant portion of its fan base.” The WNBA commissioned a study in ‘12 that “found that 25 percent of lesbians watch the league's games on TV while 21 percent have attended a game.” Warriors President & COO Rick Welts, who was the NBA Exec VP & CMO when the WNBA launched in ‘97, said that when the league began, execs “figured the fan base would be a carryover from the NBA.” Welts, who is gay, said, “We guessed wrong on that. … Maybe we should have known better.” Mercury C Brittney Griner, who has publicly identified herself as a lesbian, said, "I'm so glad that we're finally making a push to the LGBT community who is a strong supporter of the WNBA. Our league being the first to make that push and bring more attention to it is great. We'll pave the way and show its fine and there's nothing wrong with it. More sports need to do it” (AP, 5/21).

SUMMER BREEZE: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL’s Lombardo notes the WNBA's “Summer Hoops” campaign calls for each team to “create its own grassroots marketing initiative.” The goal is to “further spur leaguewide attendance," which edged up by 1% last year from the previous season, to 7,531 fans per game, while also "continuing to increase leaguewide gate revenue," which rose 8% last year. The WNBA “hopes its new campaign, created in-house, will drive interest in each of its individual markets.” Meanwhile, ESPN is counting on Sky F Elena Delle Donne to “help drive viewership nationally.” ESPN has “scheduled the Sky for seven nationally televised games this year, the most of any WNBA team.” The hope is to “build on viewership numbers" that climbed 28% on ESPN2 last year and 19% on NBA TV (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/19 issue).

Portland's annual LPGA event, the former Safeway Classic, will "return in August under a new name and an altered sponsorship structure," according to Mike Tokito of the Portland OREGONIAN. The Portland Classic Presented by Cambia Health Solutions will be played Aug. 28-31 at Columbia Edgewater Country Club. The tournament, which started in '72 and is the "longest-running regular event" on the LPGA circuit, had played as the Safeway Classic "the last 18 years." Tournament Golf Foundation, the nonprofit that runs the event, had been "seeking a sponsor for the tournament since its title sponsorship deal with Safeway expired at the end of last year's tournament." Although TGF was "not able to secure a title sponsor" -- typical LPGA title sponsorships start around $3M -- Cambia "stepped in with a lower-cost presenting sponsorship, the terms of which were not announced." Two other Portland-area companies -- ESCO Corp. and Barrett Business Solutions -- also have "committed to sponsorship involvement." The structure will "allow TGF to put on this year's tournament before trying to form a longer-term plan." TGF President Tom Maletis said, "Because of the urgency and the short time that we had, we just wanted to put together this year" (Portland OREGONIAN, 5/21). Maletis added, "We were in a time crunch. Without (Cambia) we would not have been able to pull the tournament off this year. They came through at the right time.” In Portland, Elizabeth Hayes noted Cambia President & CEO Mark Ganz "felt it was important for the tournament to have locally based sponsorship." Cambia made a "one-year commitment" to the event. Ganz said if the tournament finds a better presenting sponsor, "we will be happy to step aside" (, 5/20).