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Volume 24 No. 112
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Brand Marketing Panel Touches On Adapting To Properties' Needs, Daily Fantasy Sports

Brand marketers more than ever are asking the sports properties they partner with to be flexible and willing to adapt to their needs, even after the ink on a deal is dry. McDonald’s Head of Global Alliances John Lewicki, on a panel at the '15 Momentum Sports Marketing Symposium, compared corporate partnership agreements to marriage licenses. He said, “We may change our hair style or wardrobe, we may change where we live, but we still have the same partner. There’s language in the contract that is lawyer language, and then there’s marketing language in there that we change and we alter.” As an example, he cited working with the NFL between last season and this season on shifting the brand’s sponsorship from the Pro Bowl to the season kickoff. “We do look-ins on every agreement every year because our business changes. We talk about the demographics, who we’re trying to reach, how we reach them. Those change on an ongoing basis, so we have to have that flexibility. And I think certainly leagues ... are very attuned to that.” Representing the property side on the panel, NBA Senior VP/Business Development Rachel Jacobson said the responsibility of assessing partnerships as they are playing out falls on both sides. “As things are changing and evolving, whether the company comes to us and says, ‘We’ve changed a campaign’ or ‘We want to try some new technology,’ or what have you, we’re also coming to them because we’ve established success metrics,” she said. “When we’re seeing that the digital program or something we did at All-Star Weekend isn’t performing where the expectations were, we’re coming to them proactively, as well, to make sure that we’re changing things up, because our success is going to be predicated on their success.”

FANTASY FOCUS: Daily fantasy sports has become a ubiquitous sponsorship category for sports properties as industry leaders FanDuel and DraftKings commit serious money to align themselves with teams and leagues. But with daily fantasy as popular among sports fans as it has ever been, FanDuel GM/Integrated Partnerships Mike Pine said brands are interested in aligning themselves with FanDuel as a sponsorship vehicle, and both brand execs on the panel proved him right. Pine noted the company is close to signing its first deal with an official restaurant partner. Gillette Global Dir of Sports Marketing Greg Via said, “I am watching what’s going on with daily fantasy. I see a lot of effort, a lot of spending, a lot of team deals with these guys. I’m also watching to see if there’s a place for me with it. Whether the company would allow it, as far as the bylaws of the Proctor & Gamble company, we are a little bit straight-laced.” Lewicki followed that up, saying, “We have the same issues from that standpoint, watching it, making sure we’re a little bit more conservative on that point. But it’s a behemoth that continues to grow, and it is a fascinating lesson. So we’re watching it and figuring out if there’s a place for us involved in it.”

GLOBAL GUTS: Lewicki, whose company has sponsored the FIFA World Cup since ’94, shared his thoughts on the reform process taking place at soccer’s governing body. Asked if FIFA is getting cleaner, Lewicki quipped that the organization “can’t get any worse” before delving deeper into the hurdles to reform based on the organization’s structure. “It’s a challenge when you have an organization that’s an association that has 209 other association members,” he said. “It is a big, big house that needs to be cleaned up, and you have to start at the association level. We’re all very familiar with the CONCACAF issues, that they are the tip of the iceberg for what’s going on. Those are the associations that need to be cleaned up, and it’s got to roll up (to the top).” He added that FIFA must “establish a culture” that will not accept corruption, which “has been lacking” up to this point. Lewicki also emphasized that McDonald’s and its fellow FIFA sponsors are “pretty aligned as a group,” not mentioning that adidas recently declined to appear with other sponsors in front of the U.K.’s Department for Culture, Media & Sports to condemn FIFA.

LOOKING TO RIO: Lewicki also touched on what he and McDonald’s, an IOC TOP sponsor, expect for next year’s Rio Games. While he believes the venues will be ready in time for the Games, he expressed doubts about some “behind-the-scenes” aspects of the event, including infrastructure in the region. Referring to Brazil hosting last year’s World Cup and next year’s Games, Lewicki said, “This is a challenge for the country to be built to have those back-to-back events and the infrastructure they needed and particularly where their economy has gone. They’ll put on a great games, the venues will be done, but as in anything there’ll be some of the stuff that behind the scenes you won’t see that won’t get done.” P&G/Gillette’s Via, representing another IOC sponsor, was also optimistic that the Games would be an overall success, but added, “There’s going to be the hiccups that we’ve got to be able to react to as sponsors.”

Quick Hits
• Lewicki, on e-sports: “I understand it’s a game and it’s technology, but truly you’re disparaging athletes, to be honest with you, if you’re saying that this is a sport. This is entertainment content, it’s absolutely huge, it’s something we all have to watch as brands. But from a pure sports standpoint, we get involved in it, but we struggle to say that it’s actually a sport.”

• Lewicki, on ambush marketing: “We’re probably one of the most ambushed brands out there. … There are also so many different points of distribution and entry that ambush is almost impossible to avoid in some form or fashion. … So exclusivity quite honestly doesn’t mean a lot anymore because anyone can get in there. All exclusivity does to me is makes me pay a lot more money for something that I still can’t control.”