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Volume 24 No. 117

Marketing and Sponsorship

Wal-Mart has "signed a massive deal with the Oak View Group," giving it a "major marketing presence at 21 big league arenas," according to Don Muret of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Sources said that the agreement is "valued in the eight figures annually." One source said that it is worth $40M "over three years." Wal-Mart has "not historically been a big player in sports marketing." OVG officials said that the deal "stands out for its scope, reaching 70 million people a year who pass through those NBA and NHL facilities." It is the "first national sponsorship deal" led by Narrative, OVG's sales agency, since the group was formed 16 months ago. Its activation will "center on 'Walmart Community Playmakers,' a new program recognizing local residents who have given back through education, fighting hunger and sustainability, among other efforts." All 21 arenas will "host at least 15 events with in-game 'Playmakers' presentations over the course of the hockey and basketball seasons." The participating arenas are "members of the Arena Alliance, 26 buildings that pay Oak View Group an annual fee to secure events and sponsorships at their venues." OVG co-Owner and Head of Narrative Dan Griffis said that five members of the alliance -- arenas in Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, San Antonio and Toronto -- "had conflicts with sponsors holding exclusive deals." While details are "still being worked out, in most cases, Wal-Mart can use team and arena marks in its stores in the respective markets" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/20 issue).

CONFERENCE CALL: OVG recently purchased Venues Today and is in talks to buy Pollstar, and the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Hannah Karp cited sources as saying that co-Owners Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff are "primarily interested in using the magazines to break into the conference business." They "poached" Billboard Exec Dir of Content & Programming for Touring and Live Entertainment Ray Waddell late last year to "help run their own conferences and media." The "surge of interest in music’s more obscure trades comes as the concert industry continues a long boom and the recorded-music business rebounds after years of declining sales." Azoff and Leiweke "could use conferences to help Oak View Group, their venue-management company, which collects annual fees from about two dozen arenas in exchange for sponsorships, event booking and other services" (, 3/19).

The NCAA Tournament is a "case study in what sports marketing looks like when the athletes are off limits," according to Sapna Maheshwari of the N.Y. TIMES. Companies spend more than $1B on TV ads tied to the tournament, plus "millions more on online marketing and ads in and around arenas where games are played." However, the NCAA "strictly prohibits the names or likenesses of the college athletes from being used in advertising for products and services." Octagon Chief Strategy Officer Simon Wardle said, "With an NFL or MLB deal, or any major league, you have inherent in those league rights the opportunity to show players. With the NCAA, you've effectively got the rule of none. From a marketing perspective, that then leads you down some more creative paths, if you will." Maheshwari notes this year LG is "airing commercials that show mascots from universities," while a spot from Buffalo Wild Wings "includes an actor portraying a player in a Louisville uniform." Coca-Cola, "represented courtside" with its Powerade label, is "selling commemorative glass bottles online at $5 a pop that fans can customize with team logos or nicknames." Coaches and former players are "another popular alternative." Former UConn coach Jim Calhoun and former Duke player J.J. Redick "lent their names to a campaign from Unilever's Dove Men+Care," while Pizza Hut enlisted Grant Hill to "help tout a limited run of shoes called Pie Tops." Pizza Hut VP/Media & Advertising David Daniels said, "It felt very authentic to have an actual former player wear them and use them, and that's where we landed on with Grant Hill" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/20).

In California, Shad Powers noted at the ATP/WTA BNP Paribas Open, the sign at the back of the Stadium Court that "usually says 'BNP Paribas -- The Bank for a Changing World' was altered to say 'Bank of the West -- BNP Paribas.'" This was an attempt to "remind viewers around the world, but particularly in California, that Bank of the West and its parent company BNP Paribas aren't just a large global bank catering to corporations, but also a local entity" (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 3/19). 

SLOPE STAR: In N.Y., Bill Pennington noted companies are "lining up to attach themselves" to Gold Medal-winning U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin. She has "remained loyal to her current sponsors," making appearances this past week at the Audi FIS World Cup Finals in Aspen for Oakley and pasta maker Barilla. Her presence as a "marketed entity may be in its infancy, especially approaching" next year's PyeongChang Games (N.Y. TIMES, 3/18). Shiffrin was profiled on "Nightline" last night, with ABC's Gloria Riviera noting the skier also has deals with Red Bull and watchmaker Longines. Shiffrin’s mother, Eileen, said there "will be 50 or 60 people at the bottom of a ski area waiting for autographs" from her daughter. Eileen: "It’s easy for us to accept too many appointments for her, appearances or obligations, and we’ve seen it backfire. It makes her so tired and then she can’t even ski” ("Nightline," ABC, 3/19).

THREE-HOUR TOUR: American Express on Saturday as part of its deal with the Warriors hosted the third "All For Dub Nation" watch party. The sold-out viewing of Bucks-Warriors, exclusively for hundreds of AmEx Card Members, took place on the S.S. Dub Nation, a private cruise that sailed on the S.F. Bay. Special appearances included former NBAers Muggsy Bogues and Adonal Foyle (AmEx).