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Volume 24 No. 181

Marketing and Sponsorship

Monster Energy is coming up on a crucial period, as it is determines whether to extend its title sponsorship with NASCAR and its team deal with Stewart-Haas Racing. The energy drink company’s deal with SHR expires after this year, while the title sponsorship is slated to run through ’18. Sources said that Monster is contractually obligated to let NASCAR know by sometime in December whether it will pick up a two-year option on the original two-year, $20M annual deal that would then extend through ’20. That would give NASCAR a year to find a replacement for the ’19 season if Monster did not pick up the option. Sources said Monster is looking at recalibrating its investment in the sport next year, as it looks to find an overall spend that it deems as more of a returnable figure. Monster signed the SHR deal to serve as the primary sponsor of Kurt Busch’s No. 41 Ford before it signed on for the entitlement deal and is spending in the mid-eight figures annually all told. Cuts could come on both the team side and entitlement activation side. SHR has said that it is working toward a renewal on its deal. Monster VP/Sports Marketing Mitch Covington declined comment, while NASCAR Exec VP and Chief Global Sales & Marketing Officer Steve Phelps in a statement said, “Monster Energy brings a great deal of excitement to NASCAR. After only eight months, our fans have embraced the Monster Energy brand and our partnership continues to deliver tremendous value.”

DEALING WITH GROWING PAINS: Monster has dealt with growing pains in its first year as the entitlement sponsor, as could be expected, and sources said that has continued in recent months amid issues with driver participation in Monster’s marketing and track activation assets like signage and suites. While execs close to the deal concede there have been growing pains, a source disputed that it would lead to any early exit after this season. The source added that such growing pains should be eased significantly next year. NASCAR in recent months has said that it believes it will earn a renewal from Monster, and Covington’s public comments on the deal have been almost entirely positive aside from conceding that it has been an adjustment for the company to get used to NASCAR's structure. NASCAR has built out its series marketing staff to service Monster as it tries to earn a renewal, and the source said that data is showing that Monster is seeing significant upticks this year in categories including brand awareness. Monster's Q2 earnings report last week showed net sales were up 9.6%, just short of analysts’ expectations, though gross sales topped $1B for the first time.

Monster Energy has renewed its sponsorship deal with UFC fighter Conor McGregor, who has been part of the brand's MMA efforts since '15. The deal will see the energy drink's logo on McGregor's shorts for his Aug. 26 fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr., as well as his next UFC title defense. Coinciding with the renewal, Monster Energy has shot a new 30-second spot that will run on TV and various digital platforms, including (Monster Energy). In London, Luke Brown noted McGregor is "expected to sign a raft of new sponsorship deals on the back of participating" in the Mayweather fight. McGregor has "posted pictures on his social media feeds showing him wearing Nike training equipment, increasing speculation he could announce another lucrative sponsorship deal" in the days ahead of the bout. Beats by Dre, Reebok and Bud Light join Monster Energy as McGregor sponsors (, 8/15).

MONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO 'ROUND: Mayweather appeared on ABC's “Jimmy Kimmel Live” last night, with the host noting Mayweather is returning to the ring in the “unlikeliest matchup since Batman versus Superman.” Kimmel: “They’re saying this is going to be the biggest fight of all-time. Do you think it will be?” Mayweather: “At the pace right now that we're going, it's going to be bigger than the (Manny) Pacquiao fight (in '15)." He added, "I feel like I owe the fans. Since me and Pacquiao didn't give the fans a blockbuster, me and McGregor should give the fans a blockbuster.” Mayweather said of McGregor, “I don't like him at all.” But he added, “If the payday is there and the fans want to see it, then we're going to make it happen.” Kimmel said of the possible $350M payday for Mayweather, “I know you love money.” Mayweather: “It's cool, it's cool.” Mayweather noted at one time he owned a Brinks truck to carry his cash around, but he sold it to “another guy who loved money” (“Jimmy Kimmel Live,” ABC, 8/15).

The Ben Hogan Golf Equipment brand is "in the midst of reinventing itself as a direct-to-consumer, cut-out-the-retail-mark-up, e-commerce business -- all while trying to stay true to the timeless appeal of its namesake," according to Mike Stachura of GOLF DIGEST STIX. Recently reorganized into BH Golf Equipment LLC, CEO Scott White said that the "change to move away from traditional retail and green-grass pro shops wasn’t easy, but it was necessary." White said, "We’re going to be precise and focused on the Hogan aficionado, the more accomplished player who plays a lot of golf." He added the traditional retail route just became "too expensive." With funding from ExWorks Capital, a "primary investor in the original reincarnation of the Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company and now a significant owner in BH Golf Equipment LLC, the Ben Hogan brand will offer many of the clubs it introduced" in '15 and '16 at "greatly reduced prices." White said that the new distribution plan is a "sign of the times," and he thinks that the reputation of the Ben Hogan brand "won’t be negatively impacted by the lower prices and website-only availability." White: "It’s a delicate balancing act, and I can tell you that if this were five years ago, we wouldn’t have gone this route. But as e-commerce in general becomes more popular, this is the way of the future so I don’t think there is any kind of a negative connotation associated with it anymore" (, 8/14).

In Columbus, Tom Knox reported Ohio State has "filed a trademark for '10th unit,'" the name football coach Urban Meyer "christened fans in an attempt to pump them up before big games." There are "nine positional units on the football team." OSU "filed the trademark for use in clothing, especially shirts, and for entertainment services during college football games and exhibitions" (, 8/15).

NEW FITNESS REGIMEN: In Phoenix, Mike Sunnucks reported the NFL Cardinals and their cheerleaders have "inked a new three-year sponsorship and marketing deal" with Scottsdale-based Mountainside Fitness. The fitness chain will get signage at Univ. of Phoenix Stadium, while the cheerleaders will "make appearances and practices" at Mountainside locations. Mountainside also will "sell Cardinals gear at its centers" (, 8/15).

WASH, RINSE, REPEAT: In Boston, Mark Shanahan reported Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski is appearing in a "new spot for the laundry detergent Tide wearing braided pigtails." Gronkowski's first ad for Tide "appeared during the Super Bowl" in February (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/15).